It was the first day that Kira had laid his eyes upon the Liberty, and to say the least, it was like seeing an old friend with a new look, but still that same old friend.
In the week since he had arrived here he had kept himself busy studying every single little thing he could about the Liberty, but also had become involved in the development of the newer units slated for production for the Wraiths.
Needless to say it was time well spent, as within a day, Kira had suggested new changes to the Liberty that were reflected before him.
It was his sword….no, it was Lacus's sword, he reminded himself, and it was the sword that would bring justice to those who killed her, he thought as he brought himself to a stop before the hulking mobile suit.
A slight cough brought him out of his reverie as he was reminded that he was not alone on his tour of the hangar area.
His eyes slipped to the daughter of the commander of the Wraiths, who had followed him here, obviously his shadow. Knight's caution still maintaining their high levels, it made Kira's mind wonder at exactly how long till he would be trusted…but that didn't exactly matter, he understood the politics and mindsets that were wielded before him, he had seen them enough while with Lacus.
He then reached out his arm towards Samantha who handed him a pad that he proceeded to look over.
"The assault remotes are now fitted, good," he thought to himself, before looking at the Liberty again, and then looked back at Samantha, who looked impatient.
"Don't you have something else to do," he asked, politely, noting the frustration flicker in her eyes, before disappearing.
It was obvious to him that both Knights were more than they appeared, just the fact that they seemed to communicate to one another on an entirely separate plane was worrisome enough, but also they showed a lot more combat maturity than anyone fresh from the academy. Then there was the little fact of their uniform.
Elite academy pilots were given red uniforms to denote their elite status, and from what Kira had been able to glean, they both had earned the red uniform. However, he had seen them wearing black uniforms, with a red and black collar. Added to that was an emblem pin he had never seen before, but only Isaiah and Samantha carried.
They were dangerous, just the way they carried themselves, Kira knew that.
It had been a few days of introspection that he had actually found a rapport with Samantha. Beneath that bitchy, tough, and spoiled exterior was someone who was a respectable young woman.
They had both been pretty much from birth groomed for something they didn't want to be, but found no way around the curse.
He shook his head, before giving a smile to her, she hadn't replied to his question, they both knew the answer, no, she was there to watch him and support him that was it.
"Well then, let's take a look under the hood," he stated, jumping over the railing and into the cockpit of the Liberty, beginning to power it up.
It took effort for Shiho not to be impressed.
Isaiah had proven a man of his word as they walked into the restaurant and discovered it void of any other customers; he had called ahead and reserved the entire restaurant from the sports car as he had picked her up.
And now there they were about to enter the restaurant, him trying to carry a conversation with her over her war experience, which came to a pause as soon as they entered the restaurant.
Immediately Shiho sensed it, both from Isaiah as she noticed the tensing up on him and the expression of his face going from its expressive display to a neutral look as his eyes darted over the entrance to the restaurant, only for a moment locking on the man before them.
"The restaurant is closed," the gentlemen said, no, it was the way that he said it that caused Shiho worry, it wasn't respect, and it was something else.
"I had a reservation," Isaiah said calmly, sizing up the gentlemen before them now, Shiho could see it in his eyes, but she also noticed something else in his body language, his right foot had withdrawn a near infinitesimal amount, slowly shifting into a stance.
"Well your reservation is over," the man said, scowling, the scar on the right side of his face stretching slightly with the shifting of skin, as he got up and began moving towards Isaiah, "or do you have a problem, pretty boy."
"Isaiah, maybe we should go somewhere else," Shiho finally said, taking note of another man moving up, paying attention to the commotion.
Isaiah gave a small smile, "Maybe you have a problem," he said, "you see, my date here was expecting a nice, relaxing meal, and here you are trying to ruin that. Why don't you apologize to the young lady and move along."
"Why don't you go fuck yourself," the man said, throwing his fist towards Isaiah who fluidly ducked under it, before driving his left hand under the elbow while his right hand came slapping down on the forearm, wrenching the arm, while he then drove his body into his assailant and brought the offending arm behind the back of his attacker. A flash of steel appeared in Isaiah's right hand as he brought it to his assailant's neck.
"Now," Isaiah said in a near whisper, "apologize to the lady."
The man's eyes darted down to the blade at his neck and then towards where Isaiah had positioned himself, and then looked at Shiho, "I'm sorry."
"That's a good gentleman," Isaiah said with a smile now, letting the man go by throwing him forward and into the maitre d's booth, "Now, Shiho, I don't think this place deserves our business, how about we take this elsewhere."
He then turned and placed his hand around Shiho, blade disappearing as quickly as it appeared, and began leading her towards the door.
A clapping sound emanated behind the both of them, causing Isaiah to pause.
"It seems the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, does it Isaiah," a woman's voice sounded behind the 2nd man that had approached the pair.
Isaiah smiled, and turned around, "I thought I recognized the perfume, been awhile Christa."
The woman slid into their view, dressed in an obviously tailored business suit.
Shiho gave her a look over, noting the fact that she was older, late thirties, maybe early forties, shoulder-length auburn hair and green eyes, but her eyes carried that same edge that she had seen in Isaiah's eyes.
"You know her," Shiho asked, biding her time while she could interpret what was going on.
The woman laughed quietly, her hand not quite covering her mouth.
"I've known Isaiah since he was a kid, his mom and I go a way back," she said, she then glared at the man that had caused the commotion from earlier who had sidled up behind her, her hand making a motions as if they were cramping while she was yawning. He glared before moving out of the restaurant, obviously being dismissed by the hand gestures.
"I apologize for Alessandro, he sometimes let's his zeal get in the way of his manners," she said, "Please, why don't you join me."
Shiho sensed the steel in the voice and surmised it wasn't an invitation that could not be turned down, her eyes sidled to Isaiah and she also noted that he had sensed it by the slight narrowing of his eyes.
Just what was running through his mind, she wondered.
"Oh come on Isaiah," she said, exasperated, "quit wargaming out everything in your head, your auntie Christa hasn't seen you since you went into the Academy, you could at least join me for dinner."
Isaiah's shoulders slumped slightly; he then looked at Shiho and shrugged.
Flagship, 2nd Phantom Pain Battle Group
"Helm bring us to heading three-four-five mark two," Captain Elena Love ordered firmly, glancing at her wristwatch one more time, before nodding her head.
She couldn't believe it, here they were, sitting right in the middle of ZAFT territory, and no one was the wiser to the situation.
It had only been two days ago when they were on exercise when they had received orders to infiltrate PLANT territory and launch an attack on a secret facility on Aprilius 1.
If it was any other time, Elena would have scoffed at such a notion, but these were not other times, the Atlantic Federation had sworn in a new President, a President that everyone KNEW was Blue Cosmos, but like the situation, nothing was normal. And now ZAFT had a secret weapons facility that was developing weapons that violated the Heliopolis Treaty.
She bit her lip, mentally reviewing the orders and her situation. Her orders said nothing about civilian casualties, but she wasn't about to waste lives unnecessarily, she might be Phantom Pain, but her unit was an elite fighting force, not an extermination squad.
"You're thinking too hard into this, Captain," a voice emanated behind her chair, as she glanced up over her shoulder, "the longer we sit here stewing, the higher the probability that someone will find us."
"I'm aware of that Commander Dessaix," she said testily, "but the last thing we need is to create a war here, it's a surgical strike, in and out, minimal casualties."
She had twenty mobile suits were divided into two battlecarriers, two battlecruisers, and three destroyers.
"Can you guarantee minimal civilian casualties," she asked again.
"Yes," the commander replied.
"Launch in fifteen then, we'll begin the assault right before you launch," she then said, "good luck out there."
"I don't need it," Nicola replied, then headed out the hatch and towards the mobile suit hangar.
Love looked back at the tactical display for a few moments, and then began giving orders.
"Are you done yet," Sam asked testily, as she looked into the cockpit where Kira was looking at the displays, multiple sets of coding blinking into existence for just a few moments before disappearing again as Kira dealt with them, his eyes darting back and forth between displays.
"What, you have a hot date or something," Kira asked flippantly, mentally smirking as he saw the fury pass over Samantha's face.
"No," she said, irritably, "I'd just like to not be stuck here twiddling my thumbs waiting for you to finish pulling your all-powerful coordinator magic with your OS. I'd also like to eat sometime this century; you've been at this for over an hour now."
"Well then go and eat," Kira replied, "I'm going to be here awhile."
Sam sighed loudly, before backing off the cockpit, and leaning up against the chest beside the cockpit opening.
"Say Samantha," Kira began, "I was curious, but the graduation age at the Academy is 16, you're both 19, any explanation why?"
Sam stayed silent, leaving Kira in suspense for what she was about to say, as she then glanced around.
Yes, she and Kira had worked together over the last few days and there was trust, but how far did that trust go?
"I," she began, then suddenly the place began rumbling and hangar was bathed in red.
"ENEMY UNITS ENTERING THROUGH BLOCK C, ALL PERSONNEL TO COMBAT STATIONS. REPEAT, ALL PERSONNEL UNITS TO COMBAT STATIONS."
"Kira, lock it down," Sam shouted, springing to action, slapping the emergency close button the Liberty, causing the hatch to close on a startled Kira as she began running.
Shit just was not going to go well, she thought as she realized that there was only one other unit here…the Judicator.
No this was not going to be the best of days.
Shiho found that she liked Christa, which was surprising considering all the vibes she had gotten off the women originally.
Isaiah on the other hand had closed up on himself, merely eating and observing the proceedings as Christa and Shiho chattered incessantly.
He almost missed it as his comm. vibrated, as he picked it up and looked at the message, causing him to stiffen slightly.
"I'm sorry. Shiho, we need to go," he said, handing Shiho the comm., "now."
Shiho read over the comm. and then threw it back to Isaiah.
She was just in time as the reverberations of explosions sounded through the colony.
"Sakura 2, take 3 and 4 and target the secondary generator farm," Nicola ordered as in quick response three Siege Windams split off and headed in the direction of the said objective.
Everything was going as planned, except for a minor hitch that the blueprints were slightly wrong on the location of the facility, they had yet to find the access point deeper into the facility, But it had only been a minute and a half into the operation, ZAFT forces were still scrambling and would be another fifteen minutes.
They had literally hit ZAFT completely out of position, and now they had a 10 minute operation window before they had to return.
"Commander, Dusk Leader, we're under attack!"
"Come back Lead," Nicola asked impatiently, getting silence.
And she would never head back from lead, because all that was left was a giant hole where the cockpit was, a precision shot from the Judicator.
"Kira, how much longer," Samantha asked, moving behind a building as a trio of missiles slammed into the position she was she was just at. The assholes were dumbfiring their missiles, she thought.
"Just another minute," Kira's reply came back as he kept typing furiously, completely reprogramming the OS again, as the hangar rumbled to punctuate their situation.
"Just lovely," Sam growled, missile pods opening up as she locked on a laser on one of the Siege Windams and launching, the missile guiding unerringly right into the Siege, watching it get sheered in half by the explosion.
She then backed off as the position she had just fired from was hammered.
Yah, the day was going badly.
"Where are we going," Shiho asked as Isaiah drove like a maniac, the sports car that he had going almost three times the speed limit as it dashed through traffic.
"Installation Charlie," Isaiah said, "we developed a contingency in the event someone would make a first strike they would go for the primary facility, so we shifted the other four units to two new installations."
"But your unit is not completed."
"It's operable," Isaiah replied, "You'll have to use my sister's unit."
Sam grit her teeth as she suddenly had to dodge a flurry of rail rounds that slammed into her position, rocking her in the ensuing explosions, a construction truck slammed into the mobile suit's leg, causing cosmetic damage.
"Kira, how much longer?"
"Give me another thirty seconds."
"Dammit Kira, I'm getting overwhelmed here," Sam shot back, feeling the Judicator resisting her commands; it simply wasn't as fast as her unit.
I know, Kira thought as he neared completion, and it was a monument to Sam's skill that she had been able to prevent Kira's position from being overwhelmed.
"Three and four, flank that unit," Nicola barked, "Everyone else, suppressive fire."
She had come to the position where Dusk Leader had fallen, as well as two of his comrades, evidence being the smoldering ruins of what were mobile suits.
Their intelligence had said nothing that the units were operational, but it was only one, it could be managed, she thought as she brought the rail sniper around and lined it up on the juking and dancing Judicator that was moving from cover to cover, entering a hover as the preparations were complete.
Shiho and Isaiah plopped into their cockpit as the screens came alive.
Almost instantly Al's face came up.
"So far we've identified twelve mobile suits, Sam's taken down four but they are overwhelming her position, Yamato's bringing himself online."
"Have we ID'd the source," Shiho asked.
"Lightwave sensors have detected a task force hiding in mirage colloid just outside the colony, shadowing indicates at least two battlecarriers, Girty Lue-class with two capital ships and a few support units. Looks like a standard Phantom Pain strike force."
"We'll be ready to engage shortly," Shiho replied, finishing powering up.
"I want you two to go and engage the task force, if we can put pressure on them, we can get them to recall their mobile suits and force them to retreat."
Shiho glanced over at the Raven, which still was missing armor plating in a majority of sections, where circuitry and frame were visible.
"Are you sure about that Director," Shiho asked.
"Isaiah can handle himself," Al responded, cutting the link.
"Just support me Shiho and it should go fine," Isaiah responded, "Open up the hangar doors."
Sam volleyed out the last of the missiles in the rocker arms, just as the building she was using for cover disintegrated as a flurry of rail rounds completely shattered its integrity, starting it to collapse around her and causing her to dart into the open.
It was at that moment that Nicola's round arrived, just barely missing the cockpit of the Judicator, but shattered the right flank of It, lodging itself into it and causing the corresponding force to be exerted into the Judicator launching into a spin, forcing Sam to desperately compensate for the motion, but was too little too late as the Judicator drunkenly lost its balance.
"Kira, running out of time here," she reported, desperation being replaced by grimness as she punched the thrusters and driving the foot of the Judicator into the ground and using it to redirect the thrust to fly it back and upwards, before firing off a few more salvos of beam rounds, before another rail slammed into the rocker as she barely got the beam shield up, but caused reports to pop up on the screen, reporting that damage had been taken.
Meanwhile, Al watched the battle raging inside via colony mounted cameras as Sam was fought desperately to buy Kira more time.
"Liberty, how much longer," Al asked.
"Fifteen more seconds for startup, another ten to launch."
Too long, Al thought, I would have preferred keeping this asset off the grid.
He then switched channels to an all frequency broadcast, knowing the recipient would hear it.
"Nimue, come out of your cave."
Nicola was just leveling the rail snipers 'crosshairs down on the evading Judicator, about to hit the center mass of the Judicator as it finished getting its footing while spraying gatling fire with its right arm, when the message came over the her comms.
Before she could think any further, missiles slammed into the backs of Sakura 2 and 3.
"Latona," Nicola yelled, recognizing their killer as Sakura 4 as missiles darted towards her, causing her to immediately start dodging, losing the lock-on as she did so.
"Dawn Squad, assistance now," She commanded brusquely as she launched off all of the missiles she had left on the Siege Dagger, noting the Daggers IFF switching to ZAFT Red, and falling back at the sudden change of events.
Finally, Kira breathed in relief as the screens finally came to life with the Liberty, bathing him in the glow of its life.
"Liberty, heading out," Kira noted, as he launched the Liberty into out of the tube, and into the interior of the colony and into the midst of Dawn squad as it was moving to assist Nicola.
Even with the rust of not piloting in actual combat in years, it almost came like an innate sense, as Kira immediately drew both of the beam sabers of the Liberty and cleaved through one of the Siege Daggers, disarticulating its limbs and leaving it to plummet to the ground below.
Nicola could only watch in horror as the specter of the past reared its head in the midst of Dawn squad.
"Freedom," she breathed, before being brought back to present as a missile flew past her mobile suit, reminding her of her own problems.
"Percival, we are encountering massive resistance inside the colony, the projects are active, I repeat, the projects are active."
"Captain, we have two transient contacts exiting the colony and approaching us at high speed…wait a second, ma'am they've suddenly disappeared from the scopes."
Elena bit her lip as she surveyed the situation. Dessaix's situation had gone from bad to worse with the inclusion of the unknown Freedom knockoff joining the traitor and the other unknown, and now here she was with a decision to make, did she reveal her position on the assumption that they knew her location, or did she keep silent and leave her comrades behind.
Every part of her fought the last notion, she might be Phantom Pain, but she WASN'T Phantom Pain, she didn't throw away units casually like they were nothing.
"Drop the colloid, launch Thor and Odin teams."
She then switched the communications over to a direct line to Dessaix.
"Nicola, fall back to the Percival, mission is aborted."
There was a long pause on the other end as Elena could sense that Dessaix was fighting back the urge to argue.
"Roger," the response finally came, though the anger in the tone was obvious, they both knew that with this mission being a failure it was going to be very difficult returning back to the Atlantic Federation and not receive some…untoward results.
Love then cut the line to Dessaix, switching to the battlegroup frequency.
"All units, we are retrieving the infiltration team, as soon as that has been achieved we will retreat from PLANT territory under maximum colloid, that is all."
"Ma'am, it wasn't colloid, we reacquired them, but it's an extremely faint read…"
She then looked at her XO before looking back at the sensor tech.
"What do you mean faint?"
"Like there's something interfering with their thermal signature, all I can get is a ghosting pattern. They keep coming in and out of sensors."
"Can the mobile suits see them?"
"Feed them all of the data we have," she quickly barked, realizing that if the mobile suits could not see the contacts, then they might as well be dead.
She then watched as the two unknown units appeared and the eight units that were in reserve moved in.
"Shiho, you'll be the hammer, we need to cripple those ships to prevent them from escaping, you move in to engage the ships, I'll deal with the suits."
"You sure," Shiho asked.
"Don't worry about me," Isaiah said, breaking the Raven off and moving to engage the suits that were obviously being vectored in towards their position, instead of relying on their own sensors.
Shiho took a breath, zoning into the upcoming battle as the range gate neared the range in which the ships could engage her. Here she was with an unfamiliar mobile suit that had an operating system she had never seen before, using a combat system that was more defensive and opportunistic than what she preferred.
But now was not the time to complain, she thought as she deployed the shield remotes as they flew off their racks and moved to intersperse between herself and the ships that were now quite vulnerable due to their dropping of the mirage colloid, but then again, it didn't matter, the LADAR could make a silhouette out of them even if they were in mirage colloid.
Take out the engines and anti-ship weaponry, simple task, she thought to herself, if I had the Judicator.
Isaiah grit his teeth as the Raven accelerated, firing off its double voiture system accelerating to blinding speeds as it quickly approached the attacking mobile suits.
This was the true role of the Raven, not of that as a air/space supremacy mobile suit, but as an interceptor, using its blinding speed to quickly close the range with attacking mobile suits and lay on the hurt quickly and viciously.
He noted that they were new model Jet Windams, thankfully not the Super Windams that the Atlantic Federation were just now rolling out, they would probably be a lot more problematic.
Which meant he only had to worry about a bit of missile spam that was ineffective because they relied upon thermal signatures and units not as fast as the Raven.
He spun the Raven around and out the switchblades, and in a few moments he was already upon them, quickly slashing through a Windam before it could react to the new vectors it was being supplied with.
Yes, this was going to be almost too easy, he thought disappointedly.
"Report," Love barked, as an explosion engulfed the aft of the Hercules as it wildly fired at its attacker with everything it got. But it only served to highlight the weapons of the Girty-Lue class as more explosions wreathed it where she knew its weapons were.
"Hercules is under heavy attack and has gone adrift. Heavy superstructure damage to the New York and the Los Angeles has lost all power. Dido, Piccadilly, and Artemis keep losing lock of the attacker.
Dammit, Love grit her teeth, this had gone from exceedingly bad to downright apocalyptic in only a few minutes.
"Ma'am we just lost contact with Thor and Odin teams."
"She's reporting that she's unable to get out of the colony, she and Dawn 3 are the only ones left."
Goddamit, she had gambled and lost incredibly.
"Ma'am. ZAFT forces are approaching from astern, ETA 5 minutes. The two unknowns are focusing their fire on the Dido."
She could feel her XO leaning in over her shoulder before he could even talk.
"Captain, this could be our opportunity, we could retreat while we have the opportunity."
She closed her eyes, sighing. The XO was a new addition to her task group from another Phantom Pain unit, he hadn't been here long enough to catch up on her pledge to all of the men on her fleet. No one got left behind, no matter what.
But even this caused her pause, they were right about these new projects, once they became operational they would become a handful, and it was being proved dramatically here.
"Ma'am, third unknown exiting the colony and moving to engage us….it's the Freedom type."
"Captain, Dido has been rendered combat ineffective."
She grimaced as she came to a conclusion, she hated it, but she had no choice in the matter, if she returned to Earth, she'd be scapegoated along with the rest of the fleet by the new administration, they'd be lucky to get off with dishonorable discharges knowing Blue Cosmos methods, which meant she had to trust in her second option, and this was the most humiliating.
"Signal our surrender," she said quietly, fingering her sidearm.
"Signal our surrender," she said, more emphatically, "There's no real chance that we will be able to escape from PLANT territory if they can vector any systems designed to bypass mirage colloid, and if those suits could be vectored on us like they just were, then they have a system active in the area."
"Captain, I relieve you of command," the XO barked, pulling out his sidearm, but was interrupted from saying anything more as a gunshot rang out and the XO could only look down as his tunic was stained in red.
"I'm sorry," Elena said, "But I will not sacrifice the lives of my men in a foolhardy attempt at retreat and leave my comrades to capture by themselves."
She then looked over the rest of her command crew.
"Institute Sutherland Protocol, destroy all documents and files on the ship that can be used against our home."
Shiho watched as the lead Girty Lue ceased firing and launched flares, automatically she knew what was happening.
"They're surrendering," Isaiah said, stating the obvious.
"I know," Shiho said, as the Liberty idled up beside her, she glanced over at it, wondering exactly what was going through Kira's mind.
It was required reading to study Kira Yamato, arguably the best mobile suit pilot to ever grace the battlefield, but also a pacifist who abhorred killing. She knew that this could only escalate from here, the Atlantic Federation had launched an attack on PLANT soil, even if it was to destroy an arguably illegal weapons production facility, still, she had a feeling.
"Kira," she commed.
There was no response, causing Shiho to wonder exactly what was going on in the cockpit of the Liberty.
"Kira," she called again, this time a bit louder.
"You okay in there?"
"….Yah," came the response, even though it wasn't obviously heartfelt.
Kira could feel it, it was almost like back before the Second Bloody Valentine War, the clouds of war were gathering.
He couldn't decide if he felt sick, or if he felt excited, and feel sick about being excited. With Lacus dead, there wasn't that song of peace or any third party in this war to help stem the tides, and Kira felt almost helpless in the upcoming tide, because he could not lean on her for strength like he did.
He could only lean on the strength of the Freedom reincarnated; it seemed to be his only choice in the matter.
So why didn't that make him feel any better?
Al could only smile as he watched the ZAFT task group arrive to take the Phantom Pain battle group into custody and begin preparations to bring them into the harbor.
He then looked down at the pads in front of him and felt victorious. Everything was coming together better than even he had anticipated.
But there were still a few more pieces he needed to maneuver into position, as he looked over one of the datapads, before coming to a conclusion.
He then tapped the comm. piece in his ear.
"Call an emergency meeting of the Supreme Council."
He then cut the link and tossed back the pad, leaning back in his chair.
A/N: Been a really long while since I've updated, I apologize for that. However, I've been quite busy with college and coauthoring a book for publishing. Hopefully the book will be done in a couple years, due to the time differences between me and the coauthor, and the fact that he has a daughter who is eating up his time. Hopefully I'll have more time to update over the next couple of months.