Author's Notes:

I like to thank nick2951, Lady Une-chan a.k.a. Mirai, irishdragon, cherryheart, Sakurachild and Warp Ligia Obscura for your favorable reviews of the first two chapters. Special mention for Sakurachild, for her kind words in her review. I'm flattered you thought of me as one of the original writers of the Gundam SEED saga, even jokingly, but I swear to you I'm not. It's a great honor that someone thinks I am doing justice for the Gundam SEED story.

I'm happy you appreciate my writing style, which is a mix of Tom Clancy and Michael Stackpole, two of my favorite authors, with attention to technical details an important characteristic of their works. I hope I can continue to meet your expectations as I continue this saga. I promise to do my best. Enjoy reading my next installment of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Renaissance.


Mobile Suit Gundam SEED is owned and copyrighted to Hajime Yate, the Sotsu Agency, Sunrise and BANDAI.

Kimi wa Boku ni Niteiru is sung by See Saw.

Phase Two: The Waltz Of The Wraith

Inbound Orb City

Orb Union

December 17, CE 74

The mission was going well, the pilot of the black mobile suit concluded. The suddenness and violence of their attack completely caught the Orb Defense Force unaware. The raiding team reached their primary targets almost unopposed, and the effect of their first strike was devastating. If only they could finish the rest of the mission with the same success, but the tactical reality is that the longer you linger over and the deeper you enter your enemy's territory, the stronger their defense grows.

She knew they had secondary targets to hit, the Orb government buildings and the residence of the Chief Representative on the outskirts of the city among them. She also knew that she and her teammates couldn't rely on surprise anymore, with Orb defenders from other points in the archipelago now reacting to the strike on the Onogoro naval base. She wasn't surprised to see several platoons of Orb mobile suits converging to defend the city.

She was second in command of this mission, and led the group that targeted the capital city of Orb. Her commander's group was tasked to strike at the Onogoro Naval Base, which headquartered the Orb Defense Force's command and control structure and naval forces, while she was to hit the government installations in an elaborate feint attack. The idea was to draw as many defenders to her group, since the Orb commanders will realize the threat to the civilians living in the crowded capital. They were to engage any forces moving to reinforce Onogoro, and block their attempts to link up with the beleaguered defenders. The more defenders that concentrated on them, the easier it was for her commander's group to maximize the damage to Orb's primary military base.

Her group was approaching the outskirts of the city now. They were flying low, almost at treetop level, using the terrain to mask their approach from enemy sensors and anti-air defense points. She chose this approach vector for her group so that they could fly undetected without the need to use the mirrage colloid system, thus saving valuable battery power for her attack.

However powerful mobile suits were, these giant titans of war had a huge appetite for energy consumption. The advent of mobile suit-scale beam weapons and advanced active defense systems like the mirrage colloid increased the inherent power consumption of mobile suits. The presence of thousands of Neutron Jammers left buried under the Earth from the First Bloody Valentine War made the use nuclear energy for mobile suits inefficient and nearly useless, since the N-Jammers neutralized the fission process that cycles usable energies from nuclear reactors. Since their mobile suits carried conventional energy batteries, which could only store a finite amount of usable energy and not produce anything else, she and the rest of the teams were instilled in training the importance of efficient energy use.

She could now see that most of the roads in this zone were filling up with vehicles as Orb residents attempted to escape from the urban metropolis they now fear was changing into a battlefield once more. Perched on elevated approaches to the city, ground forces backed by platoons of MBF-M1 M1 Astrays waited, scanning the sky for her team. High above were the Murasames, flying high cover combat air patrols, waiting to pounce on her group when they were detected or begun their attack.

On the northeastern horizon, a squad of Murasames broke off from the main group, and headed for Onogoro. It was a group of six in Waverider mobile armor form, flying in formation at around four thousand feet. They were definitely reinforcements, and she knew they had to be stopped. She opened a secure link to the Onogoro group. "Wraith Two to Lead. I have bandits heading you way. Going to intercept."

"Roger Two. Hold them off," her leader replied.

She then called in on her group's frequency. "Wraith Two to group. Continue to target. I'll deal with that group heading away from us. Stick to the plan. Shoot and fade. You're in charge, Robby."

"Copy that Two," her wingman answered. "Good luck."

Activating her mirrage colloid stealth system, she banked hard into the direction of the Murasame squad. Aside from making her mobile suit invisible to the naked eye, the colloid particles had the innate characteristic of bending light and radar waves away from it, thus rendering the mobile suit undetectable by current sensors. Her mobile suit accelerated in speed as it climbed to twelve thousand feet, higher than her prey. She took position a little ahead of her targets, putting the sun behind her as she began her power dive with the airspeed close to Mach three. The Murasames were still flying straight and level, a clear indication that they still had not detected her. They had their radar sweeping actively, but the mirrage colloid was rendering their scans useless.

She had them on the middle of her HUD, as she deactivated the mirrage colloid, then turning on her targeting radar and laser designators. Fifty thousand watts of electromagnetic energy was emitted by the radar in just nanoseconds, and this mass of radiation spread along the area covered by the radar's one hundred kilometer effective range. The radiation reflected on any object in its path, which included the six Murasames. Within seconds the warbling sound of target acquisition was ringing in her cockpit, as her missile targeting systems were locking on their targets

The Orb pilots too were picking up the signals of her targeting radar. The disadvantage of radar technology is while one can detect another with active radar waves, the other side would know that they were being scanned and the direction of the scanning with active radar of their own. And a missile targeting system needs the initial use of active radar. The Murasames were beginning to turn towards her, and their targeting systems also were coming online. Flares and chaff were falling out of them to confuse any missile threat that was coming to kill them.

But the tactical advantage provided by her stealthy approach and surprise was proving decisive in her favor. It gave her the initiative, and she exploited this to the full potential. "Bye-bye, butterfly!" she shouted on an open frequency of the tactical net, an open taunt upon her prey, as she thumbed down the trigger to fire her weapons the moment the audio signal of the missile homing system brayed a continuous single tone.

The shoulders and legs of her mobile suit disappeared in gray and white smoke as eight two hundred twenty millimeter short-ranged missiles rocketed out of its cradles and corkscrewed towards the surprised Murasames. They were close to two miles away, and did their best to evade the incoming weapons in the few seconds they had to dodge. But the missiles quickly closed the gap, and once more Death claimed his first victims.

Three Murasames died instantly, as the missiles found their marks. The conical-shaped points of the warheads closed into a few feet of the mobile suits, before VT proximity fuses detonated their internal loads. The explosions jarred the mobile suits as the violent forces ripped apart armor plating and internals from the doomed machines. There was no chance for them to eject, and no one escaped the fiery mass falling from the sky. In the eternal contest between Life and Death in war, Death led in this round, with a score of three.

The other three barely escaped by hard turning and active countermeasures. They were scattered by her attack, and were now trying to regroup. She didn't let them, and pressed her advantage by closing in on them, all the while delivering withering fire from her beam rifle.

Suddenly a warning signal blared from the left of her pilot's seat. Immediately she reacted, pulling back on the stick, taking her mobile suit into an aerial back flip, as two streams of green beam fire blazed past the spot where she was.

She took a quick second to check her surroundings, taking into account the need for situational awareness. She was flying over sea now, between two islands. A bridge connecting both islands was to her left, almost bereft of vehicles. She saw the Murasames to the west, using her momentary evasion to form up their wing. She looked down to direction were the beam attack came from, a point to the northeast of her. It came from a small plateau, a little ways inland from the shorefront. A red mobile suit stood there, and began firing at her again. She pushed the throttle to the maximum, and climbed hard, avoiding more deadly beams. Her targeting computer was now tagging the new threat, and was now displaying its identification on her MFD.

ZGMF-X88S Gaia.

Gaia? But that's a ZAFT prototype mobile suit. Wasn't it tagged as stolen? What is it doing here? She wondered, until sudden realization clicked into her mind. They're here. That's got to be the reason. Only they could have the resources to have that.

She began to assess the new threat, as she maneuvered to begin another attack on the Murasames. The Gaia can't fly except for short thruster assisted jumps. If I can maintain altitude a higher altitude, I'll increase the distance between us and I'll be out of his range.

The remaining Orb pilots were now in formation, and were gaining altitude and closing in on her. Can't let that happen. She turned towards them, decreasing range and closing in more. The Murasames were firing now, backed up by beams flying from the Gaia. She countered with high-G evasive jinks and hard turns, backed up by her own electronic countermeasures. She fired off another volley of missiles and followed up with a volley of her own rifle.

The Murasames broke formation, evading her strike. One hostile was turning into her sights, as it changed to its humanoid mobile suit form. It began to fire at her, but she blocked it with her anti-beam shield. The beam were dispersed, excess energy absorbed the special coating of the shield. She could feel her mobile suit shudder from the force of impacts on her shield, but the vibrations did not affect her flight as she continued her attack. She made a split second decision on how to tackle the Murasame up front, before she begun her attempt.

She then threw the shield at the Murasame like a shuriken, a deadly projectile with sharp edges. The shield struck the Murasame just below its cockpit, and forced it to fly uncontrolled in its reverse direction, losing altitude in the process. She activated her left hand beam saber and dove on the stunned Orb mobile suit. She flew to its left, her hand outstretched, the beam saber slicing cleanly into the Murasame. She kicked in the throttle, and the extra power took the saber through to the back of its prey, cutting the doomed Murasame in half. She climbed out just in time to avoid being caught in the explosion that swallowed her mutilated victim.

She scanned her surroundings for the other Murasames and found them two miles to the east. One had already transformed into the mobile suit form and began showering her with beams. The other was planning to flank her in the faster mobile armor mode. The second one was attempting to herd her into the fire of its wingman. Missiles sprouted out of the second one and headed for her.

The raider pilot turned her mobile suit towards the first Murasame. She closed the distance in less than five seconds. She reached out and grabbed the Murasame's leg. She pulled with all the power the she could muster and tossed the Murasame into the incoming missiles. The missiles peppered the helpless mobile suit and destroyed it in a ball of gushing flames. The last Murasame tried to escape, but she didn't allow it. She locked in into its six, and vaporized it with beam fire.

She climbed to ten thousand feet and scanned the area for any more threats. The Gaia had now disengaged from combat and was retreating in its quadruped mode in the direction of the shore. She wanted to pursue it, but realized that by doing so she was flying further away from her teammates. She vectored towards a pre-designated rendezvous point, and began flying a covering patrol pattern while waiting for her team.

Ten minutes later the rest of her team called in, saying that their group commander wanted all the raiders to rendezvous at Onogoro. Orb reinforcements, including the Gaia were now there in force. It was their time for egress, and they should regroup to withdraw.

She headed for the direction of Onogoro climbing higher to increase speed with less air drag. She could see the naval base in the distance, explosions blooming in the skies as the scenes of battle raged on. She was about to descend towards it when her warning signal started buzzing once again. She immediately scanned the skies around for the incoming threat, and was helped by her sensors as it locked in on the approaching target and framed it on her HUD.

A lone mobile suit was approaching from the southwest, at an altitude almost level to her with a speed of Mach Three. She tried to get a visual identification, but the target was too fast and was using the clouds as cover. It was maneuvering in a precise manner, closing in her in a determined approach.

She thought it was another Murasame, being the only mobile suit to fly at the speed and altitude, and turned to engage it. Another warning signaled the targeting computer's identification of the target. She glanced at the MFD to confirm the identification, and was filled with dread by the designation the computer had revealed.

ZGMF-X19A Infinite Justice.

Athrun was monitoring the tactical networks as hr piloted the Justice towards Point Nova, the military codename for the Onogoro naval base. The tacnet indicated that the battle there was brutal, but the Orb forces were now regrouping and massing to counterattack. They were hampered by the raiders' mirrage colloid enhanced stealth, with hid them from view and sensors. The arrival of Andrew Waltfeld and the Gaia was turning of the tide for the defenders, as the Desert Tiger began organizing and taking command of local friendly forces. Waltfeld was orchestrating the counterattack, with the objective of surrounding and capturing some of the raiders. Athrun was racing to join the friendly forces, when he found the lone raider.

He detected the hostile mobile suit flying at fifteen thousand feet, heading for Onogoro. It did not have its mirrage colloid active, and Athrun wondered if it was damaged or the pilot was confident enough to fly without using it. That left the raider detectable by the Justice's radar, and Athrun gained valuable data about it.

It looked like a standard M1 Astray, sharing the same shape with the Orb model, except for the black paint scheme the raider used. Two rail guns were slung on both shoulders, mounted on missile launchers built into the shoulders. Two more identical missile launchers protruded from the sides of the raider's legs. The arms resembled that of the Aegis, Athrun's old mobile suit, with beam saber projector right above the hands. A beam rifle was held on the right, while the left carried a cross-shaped shield. Four dragon-like wings sprouted from a thruster backpack attached in the back.

It had the look of dangerous opponent, and it moved like one. Athrun realized he had to chance and capture the raider, and find out information from the pilot. Such information would be valuable in solving the mystery to attacks happening today. Athrun opened his comlink to an open frequency, and broadcast his demand.

"Unidentified mobile suit, this is Taisa Athrun Zala of the Orb Defense Force. You are in violation of the Junius 7 and Oslo Treaties, for intrusion and armed actions against the sovereign state of the Orb Union. Surrender now and land. This is your final warning."

Athrun Zala? Isn't he the former ZAFT chairman's son? The raider pilot took stock of new, unexpected threat. Zala was surely a formidable pilot, in a very powerful mobile suit. She weighed her chances of winning a fight with the Justice.

According to intelligence reports the Justice was heavily armed, bristling with beam cannons, machine guns, sabers and boomerangs. The burgundy-colored mobile suit had a subflight lifter as a backpack, which it could use as both a propulsion unit and a stable firing platform. It was powered by a nuclear fission reactor protected by a Neutron Jammer Canceller, which gave it nearly limitless supply of energy for weapons and maneuvering. It was protected with Phase-shift armor technology that rendered her rail cannons and missiles nearly ineffective against it. It was also a very agile aerial mobile weapon, as evidenced by its almost undetected approach.

She checked her mobile suit's systems, and saw that the odds favored her opponent. Although she had the confidence to match the Justice pilot's flying skills, she was at a disadvantage in terms of range and firepower. Her energy was about halfway gone, and so where her expendable ammunition. She was alone against a powerful mobile suit piloted by an equally powerful pilot. And Orb reinforcements were probably on the way to back him up.

She could cloak her mobile suit with the mirrage colloid, but extended use of it would be a heavy drain on her dwindling energy supplies. Her only option now was to link up with the others, and withdraw. They've completed their mission, and should play it safe. "Sorry to disappoint you, but I have better things to do than surrender!" she replied defiantly on the tacnet, and launched away in the direction of Onogoro.

Athrun was expecting the raider's reaction. The black mobile suit was now trying to get away, pushing its speed to extreme. Athrun began his pursuit, locking in on the raider's stern. Onogoro was coming into view, and other friendly forces were now driving the rest of the raiders back. Athrun surmised the raider's objective for this phase of the battle, to get out of Orb as the pressure was bearing down on them.

The raider suddenly veered towards the ocean, flying in random patterns to throw off his fire. Other Orb forces along the coast can see the raider now, and were launching missile and anti-aircraft fire to take it down, but the wily raider was avoiding these with ease. The raider moved like a classical dancing doing a European waltz, weaving effortlessly thru the barrage. But the fancy flying slowed the raider, and Athrun closed the gap to effective weapons range. This is my chance. If that thing activates its mirrage colloid now, I'll never be able to find it.

The Justice opened up its twin Fortis beam cannons on the lifter, dual green beams lancing out at the raider. The black mobile suit juked to its left at the last moment, as Athrun's attack missed. The raider turned upside down facing back at Athrun, and returned fire with its beam rifle. Athrun blocked one shot with his shield, while barely dodging the second that grazed the Justice's head by mere meters.

The raider launched a spread of missiles to take him out quickly, but Athrun disposed of this with raking fire from his head mounted "Sagittus" CIWS Vulcans. Athrun juked right and drew and fired the MA-M1911 beam rifle from the Justice's back hip, but the raider evaded and blocked his shots with equal ease. The two mobile suits danced its deadly aerial waltz as they traded and avoided deadly weapons fire.

Athrun pulled out his beam boomerang mounted on the Justice's MX2002 beam shield, and hurled it at his enemy. The boomerang spun hard, its curving approach aimed at the raider's flanks, energy blade blazing brightly and true across the sky. The black mobile suit turned its body in the direction of the boomerang's spin, and the boomerang flew by the raider, seemingly missing it completely. It flew several hundred meters past the raider, before it turned on its arc for its deadly return flight, but the raider again reacted quickly. A beam saber came to life in the raider's arms and it lashed out onto the boomerang.

A bright flash followed by and explosion came to being as the saber and boomerang connected. Deadly energy spewed forth in a flash, and the raider was momentarily thrown back by the violence of the explosion. With the raider out of the fight for the moment, Athrun saw his momentary advantage, and fired his Fortis cannons at his stunned enemy.

His expectation of victory was dashed as the dual beams flashed and dispersed when it struck an invisible barrier in front of the raider. The Fortis' fire dispersed in a bright flash, as the shimmering silhouette of a beam shield materialized at the point of impact, followed by the rest of the black body of another raider mobile suit.

"Are you ok, Two?"

It was Robby, her wingman. The black mobile suit was de-cloaking now, after it blocked the last attack by the Justice. Her other wingman was coming in from her right. She was relieved that they were safe, and equally relieved they came to support her. "The commander's group has just passed the shore. They're on the way out. We should too."

"Negative," she returned. "We're going to take that out," she indicated the Justice.

"But Taichou said -" Robby started, but she cut her off. "I'm in charge of this flight. Form on me." She lunged at Justice once more, with her wingmen following her wake a second later.

The three black raiders bore down on Athrun, who had just recovered from the shock of the other raider's sudden appearance. He veered the Justice away from them, keeping them on his firing arcs, as he moved to get better position. But the raiders fired first, three simultaneous blasts from its beam rifles. The three beams lanced angrily at the Justice, which barrel-rolled at the last instant to get out of the away. The raiders followed up with a missile volley, and twelve of them were running hot for Athrun and the Justice. Athrun activated his Lightning Multiple Targeting System and locked on each missile, which he counter-fired with a long burst from the head-mounted Vulcans, and the ensuing explosions covered the sun and sky in darkness.

Athrun was feeling the strain of the hard, high-G flying, being unable to get into a proper pilot's suit in the urgency of the moment. He pondered his options, knowing that he had to break the raider's formation and take them one at a time. But the raiders were relentless, bursting out of the dispersing smoke and diving at Athrun with a withering barrage of beams.

His situation was getting dire, and the danger increased as a raider got to Athrun's left flank without him able to react. The raider drew its beam saber, and was thrusting it towards him. The other two were continuing to cover the attacker, not allowing Athrun the ability to return the attack by continuous green beams. All he could do was bring up his shield and pray he could block it before it was too late.

A powerful red beam of hyper impulse energy shot in front of the raider, burning through its right arm and totally disintegrating it, the following explosion ripped apart and consumed much the raider, and its smoldering remains started to fall from the sky. Athrun took the chance to strike out, his Fortis cannon striking true. Both beams hit squarely on the raider's chest area. The doomed raider disappeared as it blossomed into a furious, orange fireball.

Athrun looked down on the ground at the direction of the red fire and saw his support. "Took you long enough," he said over the communications net.

The GAT-X103 Buster stood firmly on the ground, its docked weapons forming the giant hyper impulse sniper rifle it held pointed at the sky. Excess heat was venting out of the rifle, the sun reflecting on the metallic barrel. It was tracking the raiders, preparing to volley another round of deadly impulse energy.

Dearka's face came up on one of the Justice's overhead communication displays. "Sorry for the delay, Taichou, but I had to update the Buster's OS for terrestrial action. And you won't believe how thick the dust was in here," he smirked. "It seems like you've got a lot of dance partners. Want to share?"

He was relieved the Dearka was now there. Gratefully, Athrun nodded at his wingman. "It's time to tango."

"JACOB!" she screamed, as her wingman died in the fire that engulfed his mobile suit. The appearance of the new enemy resulted in the death of one of her team. Grief for her late friend turned to anger, and she focused her anger on the Justice.

But her wingman struck first. Screaming a war cry, Robby dove for the deck, angling for the new threat, which the computer tagged as the GAT-X103 Buster. Robby let loose with every missile he had left, and they angrily streaked towards the Buster. The Buster replied with its massive three hundred fifty millimeter gun launcher on its left hand, and the giant gun roared as shotgun-like pellets flew and scattered into the sky, slamming into the missiles and destroying them.

Seeing the situation changing desperately against her team, she fired all her weapons at the Justice but they were mostly ineffective as the red mobile suit ably dodged all her attacks. The Justice drew both of its sabers, joining them together at the pommel to form one deadly, double sided weapon. With a another barrel roll, the Justice charged at her, and before she could defend herself the Justice's beam blade slashed her mobile suit right arm off. As warning alarms came alive in her cockpit, she saw the Justice fly past her, and angled around for another attack.

She knew she was doomed, but she wouldn't die without a fight. Her remaining energy was just enough for her to escape, and she was almost out of missiles. Another attack by her would be her last and potentially suicidal.

As she began her final attack, a dark blur surround her forward viewscreen and obscured her HUD - it was Robby in the other remaining mobile suit of her team. Robby flew in front of her, coming directly between her and the Justice and blocking her from its view. The black mobile suit's left hand reached out to hers' and pushed it away. "Get out of here NOW!" Robby cried, a split second before the Justice struck his mobile suit in the center of its torso, the beam blade thrusting through the cockpit. The arms of the raider mobile suit slumped, and the limp and uncontrolled body slipped out of the beam blade. It fell from the heavens, crashing in the blue ocean below.

She screamed, as scream full of the anguish of loss, and the promise of retribution. "ROBBY!" And then she began to withdraw, heading out into the ocean, disappearing in a cloud of shimmering particles.

Athrun was breathing heavily as he watched the black raider he impaled with the Justice's saber fall. There was only one more raider left, but as he turned his attention to it, he saw it breaking away, then it vanish as it activated its stealth system. Athrun tried to scan for it, but the mirrage colloid particles masked its presence completely. Athrun contemplated if he would pursue, but he knew it was useless. And he was thoroughly exhausted from the frantic fighting. "What do you think, Dearka? Is the raider coming back?" he called out to his partner.

Dearka came on the link, looking tired as well. "I think he bugged out. He must be running on fumes and knows he doesn't stand a chance against the both of us. And we've got more Murasames coming our way." The Orb units had finished fighting in Onogoro and where sending reinforcements to them. "I think we've won this round, Taichou."

Athrun looked to the direction of Onogoro, smoke climbing up to sky from its burning buildings. "But we got hurt really bad." He thought of the casualties the attack caused, and he remembered the image of the burning Palace in Oslo where Cagalli was. The harsh reality of the aftermath of the raider attack was beginning to dawn upon him.

"Really bad."

Temporary Command Center

Orb Defense Force

Onogoro Naval Base

Onogoro Island

Orb Union

December 17, CE 74

They were restlessly waiting for dire news they did not want to hear. Athrun paced back and forth inside the conference room, wracked by worry and fear for someone very special in a far away land currently shrouded in terror and tragedy. He was angry at himself, frustrated by his helplessness to do something in the situation. His aching and tired body did not help his mood. He wanted to leave Orb at once and go to her, but the current situation here was still as chaotic as in Oslo, and Athrun knew he had to clear things out first. That was what Cagalli would have wanted.

He and Dearka went straight for the Onogoro Naval Base after their battle with the raiders. As they flew towards the base they saw the massive devastation the raiders had left. Seven warships were dead in the water at the docks, still burning in their wakes. Other ships, some looking battered with damage, guarded the entrance to the bay, while others look for survivors in the oil-blackened water to rescue. Search And Rescue VTOLs were flying low over the harbor, while several platoons of Murasames flew top cover patrol, looking for any other threats that may be lurking about.

Buildings were scored by weapons fire, with most of them collapsed or burned out. Several, like the main headquarters and intelligence buildings, were totally destroyed. Numerous wreckages of mobile suits and vehicles, all of them in Orb colors, lay scattered all around the devastated base. Men were scurrying around, rescuing injured personnel and taking them to ambulances or emergency triage tents. Others collected bodies and body parts of dead comrades for identification on a football field used as a temporary morgue. Crowds of civilians and nearby residents gathered at the edges of the base's perimeter, watching through the wire fence at the frantic activity going on inside. Guards backed up by M1 Astrays, linear tanks and armored personnel carriers denied entrance, as the security level for the entire Orb military was at its highest.

They landed in front of the judge advocate's general's office, the least damaged building in the base, now currently serving as a temporary command center. They were met by Chujo Ledonir Kisaka, the tall North African who served as Cagalli's chief military aide and intelligence officer. He was caught in the attack, and was wounded with a long gash across his forehead, now bandaged. Bloodstains can be seen in his ragged uniform, but Kisaka found no time to change nor rest, with the fluidity of the situation. As the highest ranking officer on site to survive the attack, he took initial charge of the defense of Onogoro after the entire command staff was killed in the initial moments of the raid as six missiles struck the headquarters building, turning it into a burning heap pile of rubble and twisted metal. He held the defenders together before Andrew Waltfeld arrived with relief troops.

Kisaka led them to the conference room, where the Tiger of the Desert waited for them with several junior staff officers frantically answering phones and checking for information from laptops arrayed on the conference table. He was having his customary cup of coffee, although the circumstances forced him to take an instant one rather than his beloved brews. He filled them in the details of the fighting there, but nothing much else. No new news from Oslo was coming yet, except for the routine updates regarding the ongoing rescue operations and combat patrols from various units all over the archipelago.

They spent a good part of two hours waiting as Kisaka went back to his command post to oversee things from there. Athrun got hold of Meyrin, who had stayed in Angel's Point with Mrs. Yamato and the orphans. She said that no one from Terminal had contacted Angel's Point, and she'd update him if there were news from that end. Athrun routinely called her every half hour, but still there were no reports from Terminal agents or the Archangel.

Dearka, for his part got in contact with the PLANT's embassy, and asked for any information that they could share. They too, were worried for Chairman Westenfluss, but reports were slow in coming in. There were no reports of unknown ship movements between Earth and the PLANTs. However the ZAFT military was on full alert, and the Gondwana battlegroup was now patrolling aggressively between the main PLANTs at L5 and L4's Armory One. Dearka explained that this was standard procedure, but didn't elaborate more. Otherwise he kept uncharacteristically quiet, waiting for news. Waltfeld and Athrun, both knowledgeable about ZAFT tactics with this situation, didn't press him for more

He's worried about Yzak, Athrun thought. He's also there with Cagalli.

Athrun was desperate and losing hope. He wanted to hit something, to let his frustrations out. But he kept himself in check, knowing that getting angry would only worsen the situation. But deep inside he felt it was his fault that Cagalli was now probably dead. He was supposed to be there with her, to protect. Athrun promised Kira that he'd protect her. He promised her that he would protect her. He had failed twins. He had let her die.

As the sun was setting late in the afternoon Kisaka came back to the conference room. He looked in the verge of exhaustion, but the hint of relieved smile was playing in his face. He went straight for Athrun, and put a hand on his shoulder. "Cagalli's alive. They pulled her out of the rubble with Yzak Joule and another ZAFT officer. They're all safe."

Athrun felt his feet give way with relief, and slumped forward. Kisaka caught him and steadied him. "She's been hurt – I don't know how bad, but she's alive and the doctors are working on her now. Initial reports are sketchy, but they say she's going to pull through."

Athrun felt the weight of the world lift from him. Exhausted and torn apart by fear, the tears started to fall. He didn't realize until now how important that woman was to him. He wouldn't able to live on if she wasn't saved. Now worries for her current injuries were beginning to fill him, but for Cagalli he had to be strong. "Thank you, Kisaka-sama." He wiped the forming wetness from his eyes away and sat down. He pondered what to do next.

Dearka slapped him in the back. "I knew she'd be alright. Good thing Yzak was there. He's too damn stubborn to let Death get the better of him and Cagalli."

Kisaka picked up the phone and dialed. "I'm calling Airlift Command to ready a flight to Oslo," he was telling Athrun. "Go to Cagalli and see to her. We'll take care of things down here."

Athrun nodded. Though hurt, Cagalli was safe. And he was going to see her soon. That was all that mattered for him now. Cagalli was safe.

Hotel Luna Meridian

Copernicus City

The Moon

December 18, CE 74

Lacus monitored the events in Oslo and Orb all throughout the night. She wouldn't take her eyes from the CBN live coverage, and ignored Kira's admonitions to sleep. She couldn't accept the fact that some people were starting the mad cycle of violence again, and once more people dear to her were in harm's way.

At least Athrun, Dearka and Waltfeld-san were okay, after that battle they fought on Orb. The news crew was lucky and brave enough to cover the aerial battle footage of the Infinite Justice, Buster and the Gaia fighting of the black raiders. She and Kira watched in fear the fighting on the television, and were relieved when their friends won unharmed. In Kisaka-sama's news conference a few hours later they saw Athrun standing at the tall general's side, and he looked tired but unhurt.

But it was Cagalli's condition that worried her. She was relieved by the news of Cagalli's rescue from the devastated Royal Palace, but fear the gripped Lacus as she waited for news of the rescue grew stronger as she heard of her friend's injuries.

It was an exhausting ordeal that she had to endure through that night. The fear and anxiety took a heavy toll on her. Normally a strong and fit young woman, the emotional stress sapped all her strength, and if not for Kira's presence, she would have collapsed to exhaustion hours ago.

But still Kira sat beside her, his strength and determination showing through his violet eyes, even though the strain of exhaustion and worry too was evident in his face. He held her close as the scenes in the live feed became too much to bear. Kira remained silent most of the night, quietly speaking only to answer her rare questions, or plead with her to turn in and sleep. But she knew that Kira wouldn't sleep even if she did. He'd stay up all night too, for under his façade of strength Kira was very afraid with what had happened and was happening to his twin sister.

He was now talking to Murrue Ramius via a secure satellite communications link thru his laptop, and they discussing something connected to the incidents. Lacus couldn't hear what exactly they were talking about, as Kira spoke in a soft voice, sitting in a far corner of the room, facing away from her.

He doesn't want me to hear anything - probably the news wasn't good. Kira was definitely in his protective mood. He was trying to shield her from any reality that may bring more anxiety and pain for her. Though Lacus appreciated Kira's concern and care, she didn't want to be protected that way, by having things that maybe troubling but important kept from her. Before she could go to him, Kira ended the link and walked to her.

"I've just finished talking with Murrue-san and Mu-san. They'll be on the first shuttle out of Januarius Five and will rendezvous with us here. We'll figure out what to do when they arrive." Kira paused then spoke softly. "We'd better head back to the ship in the afternoon. There's nothing we can do for the moment but wait for news. Try to get some sleep first."

Lacus faced the video screen once more. "How can I sleep at a time like this!" she blurted out all of the sudden. She heard a gasp escape Kira's mouth, and she knew that she had wronged him. Lacus wasn't a person with an easy temper to trigger, but the stress was bringing her patience down. She didn't want to shout at him – Kira was only being concerned. With a twinge of guilt, she stood up and went out into the room's balcony.

A soft cool breeze was evident in the early morning. The moon colony was still mostly asleep, but Lacus could hear the sounds of early morning traffic coming to life. But for the moment, things looked and sounded peaceful here on Copernicus. She looked out unto the cityscape to encompass its majesty, but the breathtaking view did not help soothe her troubles. She felt scared – scared for Cagalli, scared for the world, scared for her loved ones, scared for herself.

A moment later she felt Kira's hand on her shoulder. The love she felt in his tender touch calmed her, and broke her façade of anger. "I'm sorry. It's just so frustrating, just sitting around when things are happening, and there's nothing we could do." Tears were welling under her eyes.

Kira slid his hands on her sides from her back and hugged her. "It's okay. I'm worried and frustrated too. I'm so worried about Cagalli." He kissed Lacus' long pink hair. "But I know getting angry won't get us anywhere. Cagalli's in good hands. She's strong. She'll get through this. And knowing Athrun, he's on his way now to be with her now. He'll take care of her."

Lacus turned and buried her face in Kira's chest. "I'm still scared, Kira. I'm afraid all we've sacrificed for will be in again in vain." She was sobbing now. "Why is this happening again?"

Kira hugged her closer. "I'm not sure why, Lacus." Behind her tears, Lacus peeked at his face. He was looking at the awakening city, the determined look in his eyes growing more pronounced. Lacus recognized that look – Kira was coming to terms with the realities and troubles in front of him and was mentally preparing for the fight ahead. Lacus always worried about Kira when he was this way, for she knew Kira will never back down in front of such a challenge Was this the product of their victory over Dullindal? Was this his warning coming true? Will his warning of chaos swallow the world they knew?

It was these thoughts that occupied Lacus' mind, her attention to it so deep that she almost didn't hear the whispered but strong words that slipped from Kira's lips.

"I promise I'll find the way to finally end this madness."

Kimi no sugata wa boku ni niteiru
Shizuka ni naiteru you ni mune ni hibiku

Nanimo shiranai hou ga shiawase to iu kedo
Boku wa kitto manzoku shinai hazu dakara
Utsuro ni yokotawaru yoru demo
Boku ga eranda ima wo ikitai sore dake

Kimi no hayasa wa boku ni niteiru
Adome no kikanaku naru sora ga kowaku natte
Boku wa itsumade ganbareba ii no?
Futari nara owaraseru koto ga dekiru