I own nothing except Diana Stein and her unit.

'Birds of a Feather' and all associated characters, machines and events belong to Solid Shark.

Before Extendeds, before BCPUs, there was an elite unit, its members collectively known as CHO. These skilled soldiers volunteered to undergo extensive training, and performance enhancing drugs. Theoretically, they were to be the equal of any co-ordinator in their chosen fields of specialisation. So strong was their belief in their duty that upon acceptance into the unit, their pasts were erased. Whoever they had been did not matter, only what they had become.

Their leader was hand-to-hand combat specialist Diana Stein. This is of course not the name she was born with, but it is the only name she would recognise during the war. Passionate and individualistic, she didn't do well in the more conventional forces of the OMNI enforcers. She was one of the first volunteers for CHO. Her patience, commanding aura and teaching skills made her the perfect candidate to lead the newly formed unit.

She'd been in a few skirmishes since joining the Atlantic Federation, more so since it had become a part of the Earth Alliance. Still, none of them had gone quite so poorly as today's. The Grimaldi Front wasn't exactly a vacation spot at the best of times, but they'd already lost A third of the Fleet and nearly just as many mobile armours. Her own ship had already been wiped out, and she had seen her brother's Moebius Zero take a couple of glancing hits.

'Those damn Demons aren't helping much.' She thought bitterly as she watched another pilot go down, their machine destroyed by a grey GINN. Her own target, in yet another fruitless attempt to lose her, halted his movement. She overshot, and cursed as she desperately tried to correct her direction before the GINN tried to hack her into shreds with his sword. She was fast enough to save herself from being cut in two, but her Moebius still took damage.

Snarling softly she brought her cannon to bare, and fired. Her opponent hadn't expected her to recover so quickly, and paid the price. As did she. Something within her machine died, sending an overload into her console. Glass and metal shattered, ripping into her side. Grunting softly, she was thankful for the fact her last target had led them away from the main battle - It would give her time to get her bearings and seek medical attention.

She scrapped that plan as the radiation levels rose drastically. "They wouldn't…" she whispered softly. Her instruments said otherwise. She'd heard about the Cyclops System, but she'd never thought they'd actually use it, not whilst their own people were still in the blast zone's radius. Mu la Flaga's warning only solidified her decision to get moving. "All Earth Forces, if you don't want to fry, get out of here!" La Flaga was following his own advice, and she was amongst those few that didn't wait around.

She poured as much power into her thrusters as she could spare…

Diana awoke spluttering, glaring at the cushion that had hit her right on the head.

"Nightmare?" She glanced at the male sitting in the corner, grabbed the cushion and threw it back.

"Yeah." She said softly as her companion caught the projectile and tucked it behind his back. He nodded in understanding.

"Endymion and the Cyclops system right?"

She nodded, slowly releasing her breath. "The Maywood siblings may have died at Endymion, but the memories are still there." She raised a hand to block the incoming cushion. "What was that for?" She scowled, picking up the offending weapon.

"You were about to slip into a pessimistic mind frame, Diana. I know you're no optimist, but you being depressed isn't pleasant for the rest of us." He grinned, "So, you getting up or do I need to get a cold bucket of water?"

"You delight in terrorizing me don't you Sol?"

"It's what brothers are for." Sol grinned, picking himself up off the floor. "I'll leave you to get ready. But if you're not out in 10 minutes, I'm sending in Megs."

Diana scowled at her brother's back as she held back a shudder. Meagan was a lovely girl, but she rattled on about her inventions just a little too much. It wasn't something she wanted to deal with first thing in the morning. Yawning, she dragged herself out of bed, going through her usual morning routine.

The bathroom floor was cold, and provided an instant wake-up call. Splashing cold water on her face, any thoughts of returning to bed vanished - It was all part of her daily routine, and she loved the opportunity to take her time. Compared to her Academy days, this was a luxury. Next she switched on the kettle, and returned to her room, getting dressed as she waited for the water to boil.

Many people had asked about the kettle. It was quite simple really. Unless in a combat situation, Diana could not survive a full day without her traditional morning cup of tea. The kettle in her quarters just saved time in getting ready for the day. The water finished boiling just as she was doing up her uniform's collar. Smiling with satisfaction, she made her tea, and glanced at the mirror.

Brown eyes stared back, framed by long black hair. Diana Stein had often been told she was in the wrong profession - most people believed she ought to be a model. Those people had only ever seen her in the full uniform of the Earth Alliance, and took her slim appearance to mean that she was weak. Those that had met with her in combat or training knew better - Diana had as much right to wear the blue and brown uniform of the CHO unit as any of her team-mates.

Dressed and refreshed, she went wandering through the current base of her unit. She entered the rec room to discover a news report blaring, and the rest of her team staring at each other in bewilderment. "I take it there was a reason Sol was waiting for me to wake up, and it has something to do with whatever's on the TV?"

"You just missed it Captain." Adrian Summerton saluted. As always, he was in full uniform, and there wasn't a single crease visible. No-one was sure how he managed to keep it so neat. "ZAFT attacked and destroyed the Heliopolis colony."

Their captain's eyebrow rose. "Heliopolis? That's where they were working on the G-Project and the Archangel, wasn't it? I want the details people." Her brother nodded.

"4 of the 6 mobile suits were stolen by ZAFT. Which four were taken, we really don't know - We're yet to get an official report from HQ. From the news reports, we've figured this much out. ZAFT has four mobile suits and used D Grade weaponry in an attempt to get the last two. That's what destroyed the colony, according to Meagan."

Meagan Taylor nodded. "I can't see what else could have caused that much destruction. Not in ZAFT's arsenal anyway." Diana acknowledged this with a nod, meeting her brother's eyes. The dark brown orbs mirrored her own worry. This was quite the setback, especially if ZAFT had succeeded in destroying the two remaining machines.

"What's the ETA on an official report?" Sol questioned, looking around at the group.

"Unknown Sir. It depends on how quickly someone can get there, or if there were any survivors." Adrian replied.

"Well, there's nothing we can do for any survivors there may be. Let's hope they can look after themselves." Diana nodded to the rest of the group, slipping out of the room. She'd be able to get more information, with or without an official report.

"Captain Stein, this is a pleasant surprise." Despite the words, the man's tone and appearance spoke otherwise.

"Cut the crap Lord Gabriel. We both know why I'm calling. What happened at Heliopolis?"

The businessman frowned at her straightforwardness. Diana usually didn't mind the banter they often participated in. "Worried Captain? I'll send you a detailed report. Will that satisfy your curiosity?"

Diana grimaced. "It will do for a start. Thank you Lord Gabriel."

"You're most welcome Captain. Though I do suggest you remember who it is that financially supports your unit the next time we talk." The screen went blank, and Diana growled.

I'll remember who funds us if you remember who volunteered for this little experiment of yours in the first place.

Diana's eyes darted across the page as she flicked through the report she had received. It had come through two days after the official report that HQ had sent. She wasn't pleased that it had taken Gabriel so long to get this. There wasn't much difference in the two reports either, although Gabriel's report held more speculations then the official one.

She flicked through the report, scanning to make sure she hadn't missed any details. Two days after the collapse of the Heliopolis colony, and she finally had enough information to satisfy herself and her unit. They'd had an interest in the colony since the work on the G-project had been started. Not because of the G-weapons, but because of their own project that had been due to start soon in the neutral colony.

According to Gabriel's report, there was nothing but scrap metal remaining where the colony had been. Most of the civilians had survived, although one life pod was reported as missing – Supposedly the Archangel had taken it aboard, if Gabriel was correct. Gabriel's report also speculated that the pilot of the Strike was a Heliopolis civilian, and a coordinator. Surprising as it was, she was far more intrigued by the claim that the Grimaldi Falcon was back, and fighting for the Earth Forces.

It seemed impossible. Commander Kenneth DiFalco was loyal to the PLANTs. For him to be fighting alongside the Earth Forces, something had to be wrong. The Grimaldi Falcon would not turn against his comrades without having very good reasons, and he would never wear an Earth Forces uniform willingly. Diana may never have met him, but she'd seen him on the battlefield. He was as bound by duty as she was, and had a warrior's sense of honour that she'd rarely encountered in her own side of the war. If things had turned out differently, they could have been friends.

Shaking her head at her own thoughts – her and the Grimaldi Falcon as friends? Not in this reality – she continued to the briefing room. Awaiting her was her unit, all in uniform, and ready to hear the latest. "Well, it could have been worse. The Archangel and her two machines – The Strike and the Raptor – have so far managed to evade ZAFT's forces." She glanced around the room. "It's the Le Creuset team that's pursuing them, so I'd say they're doing pretty well."

Jay Ruston, the team's medic, nodded. "Very well, if they're dealing with Le Creuset. He'd only have the best pilots." Diana acknowledged his comment with a nod.

"Yes, further more, the ZAFT forces are meant to be making use of their captured machines. I'd say the Archangel and her crew are doing quite well." She sighed, glancing at Meagan. If anyone was likely to be displeased about Gabriel's speculations concerning the pilots of the Strike and Raptor, it was she. The 18 year old was a Blue Cosmos supporter through and through.

"Gabriel believes that the pilots are coordinators – they still hadn't developed an OS that naturals can use, and the machines were fighting far too well. He believes that the Raptor is being piloted by the Grimaldi Falcon, and the Strike by a Heliopolis student. Of course, it's just speculation. The Archangel is yet to encounter anyone who could confirm this."

As predicted, Meagan was furious. "How can they even consider letting a coordinator near those machines?! They're the enemy! Are they insane?" The rest of the unit nodded, and Diana sighed.

"I don't believe they had a choice Ensign. They'd have been destroyed without the assistance of those two – that is if Gabriel's speculations are right and they are coordinators. Admittedly, I don't think it was a wise decision to allow Commander DiFalco to pilot one of our mobile suits, and a civilian isn't much better, but if it was a matter of survival… No matter how much I dislike the idea, I'd have done the same."

"So you believe Gabriel's right? You're speaking as if you believe his speculations." Sol was curious. Even he couldn't keep up with his sister's thought process sometimes. She was a brilliant tactician, and a superb pilot. He strongly believed that the Republic of South Asia would still have Nova if their unit had been allowed to assist. The whole unit believed she could be a match for the Grimaldi Falcon any day, if only their superiors would deploy them when and where it mattered.

"Yes, I believe the report may be correct. The peregrine falcon's hunting call isn't something that can easily be mimicked, even by a coordinator. Besides, who'd want to claim to be DiFalco? Blue Cosmos and most of the Earth Alliance would be delighted to have his head on a platter. No, it really is the Grimaldi Falcon who pilots the Raptor." Diana began pacing.

"The question is why? Something must have spooked him badly for him to be assisting us. If something has him that worried…"

"We should worry as well." finished Adrian, nodding slowly. "It's something we should look into, but it probably won't be easy, and it's currently not the most pressing of matters we have to attend to."

Sol nodded. "Agreed. Did Gabriel mention anything about our little project?"

"It's not good." Diana sighed, "Heliopolis is scrap metal, and it's likely the Sandman Project is completely gone. We're back to square one."

Meagan cursed softly. The Sandman Project was often jokingly referred to as her pet project. Learning that it would now be another two or more months before it could even start did not help her sour mood. "No personnel, no materials… Did the designs survive at least?"

"It's unlikely. The completed designs would have been destroyed along with the rest of the Project the moment the colony was compromised. We can't afford to have ZAFT find out about us just yet. We're the Alliance's wild card, whenever they end up deploying us."

Meagan sighed. "So the whole thing has to start from scratch again? That sucks! Do we have any new orders?"

Their commanding officer shook her head. "No. Our orders are still the same. We're to continue to monitor the situation here in the USSA, and find the people responsible for the latest outbreak of terrorism against the Alliance forces stationed in the area."

Their medic sighed. "We've been here since the unit was official recognised. I'm getting sick of dealing with the conventional forces. They send us after every damn lead they find, even the ones that are completely unrealistic!"

"We're all getting sick of it Chief, but for now we just have to make do. Our superiors know what they're doing." 'I think' "Now, I believe that's everything. Training session in two hours, and I believe we're all scheduled for medicals at 1600 hours. I do not want to have to come searching for anyone. Dismissed." Diana watched the group trickle out of the room, but wasn't surprised to find her brother lingering.

"I believe I said you were dismissed Lieutenant." Sol gave her that look - the irritated, 'I'm you're brother, I know something's wrong' look. Diana sighed. "Alright, alright... I'm as annoyed as everyone else about being kept here. The whole reason our unit was formed was as an attempt to provide soldiers who could match a coordinator's combat abilities. Yet the only combat we've seen is against small terrorist cells! When are we going to be sent to the frontlines?"

Sol frowned, stepping forward and embracing his frustrated sister in a brotherly hug. "I don't think they'll ever send us to the frontlines Diana. We're just the experiments, and we're lacking something that could make us a match for the coordinators, even with the drugs and training. We're the first stage, and they consider us a failure."

Diana growled softly. "So they've labelled the CHO Project a failure and tucked us away where they can forget all about us?" Sol nodded, watching his sister as she began pacing, a flicker of fire burning in her eyes.

"Well, I refuse to be forgotten. We'll catch this latest cell, find who's directing these attacks and take them out. We'll remind our superiors that we're still around!" She whirled around, hands on her hips to glare at her brother, as if daring him to disagree.

"You've got my full support Sis. Let's point out that we're not that easy to ignore." He watched her with pride as she grinned and walked away, a confident air surrounding her.

'That's my twin sister.'

Diana returned to the base with a feeling that was a little too close to relief to make her entirely comfortable. It had been a long day. She presented herself to the bases guard, saluting him and rattling of her identification number with a toneless voice. "Captain Diana Stein. Identification number 03497211."

The guard checked her details before stepping aside. "Long day, Captain?" Diana just nodded as she passed. Her civilian attire caught the attention of several personnel, but after staring for a few moments, they would turn away. She was glad for it. Dealing with any cocky soldier would probably have led to an all out brawl. She just wasn't in an accepting mood. She reached the restricted are that housed her unit without trouble. Swiping her access card and entering her personal pin, she relaxed as the door hissed open.

'Home,' she thought, shrugging out of the fluffy jacket she had worn for this information gathering mission. She held it out, studying the eyesore she'd forced herself to wear. It was pale pink and extremely feminine. Meagan had given it to her for Christmas as a joke, but Diana had chosen to wear it to a meeting with a new informant only two days later. Since that meeting, it had become a part of her civilian clothing that made up the persona 'Panther'. That didn't mean she had to like the jacket.

"Are you going to stare at that all day, or are you going to get changed and brief us on what you've found out?" Diana didn't even need to look up to know who was addressing her.

"I'm going to burn this one day Sol. I'm going to delight in watching the flames turn it to ash."

"Well until that day, I suggest you hurry up. Jay is getting antsy."

"Jay? Why is Jay getting impatient? He never gets impatient."

The lieutenant shrugged. "I think it has something to do with a call from HQ that he took whilst you were gone."

Diana frowned. 'What could they possibly want?' Shrugging mentally, she headed to her quarters to change - There was no way she was staying in these distasteful civilian clothes any longer then necessary. It wasn't that she disliked everyday clothes; she just didn't appreciate the clothing Meagan and Sol had suggested for Panther. It was, for the most part, far too restrictive.

In the briefing room, she glanced around at her unit. "First off, I want to know what headquarters want. Chief?" Jay nodded, and stood to give his report.

"Whilst you were out Captain, we received a call from Lord Azrael himself." The Captain's eyebrow rose. "He said that he wanted us all to undergo a full medical examination, and for the results to be sent directly to him." Diana's eyebrow rose further.

"We had our last medical less then a two weeks ago. What could he possibly want now that he can't get from those reports?"

"I'm not sure ma'am. However, he was very insistent that it be done as soon as possible."

Diana sighed. "Very well. We'll report to the medical sector tomorrow at 0900. Best to get it over with as soon as possible. Now, I suppose you'd all like to hear if my latest investigations have born fruit?" The group nodded, Meagan practically bouncing in her seat.

"Alright then." She moved over to a nearby display, calling up a map of the nearby area. "My little birdie believes the PLANT supporters are holed up in this area." She pointed to a well-protected area. "As you can see, the hills around here are extremely steep and rocky, effectively leaving only a North-east direction as the safest offensive."

"Which makes for a great defensive position, but it also keeps them hemmed in." Gregory mused. "Couple of kilograms of explosives, and you'd be able to wipe their base out with a rockslide." Diana nodded at her demolitions expert.

"It is an option, but I'd rather get a better idea of the terrain first. I'm proposing a scouting team check it out, firstly to ensure that our targets are making camp there and secondly to decide how to go about removing them. I want to take a couple of them alive, if at all possible."

Sol nodded in agreement. "You and Adrian should check it out. Meagan and I will act as back-up, and Gregory and Jay can keep an eye on communications." There was more light in her team-mates' eyes now then there had been for the past month. Diana shared their excitement - she was looking forward to actually doing something as well.

"It's settled then. Two days from now, we're going hunting."

Diana watched her unit as they trained. Once, these exercises had left them all exhausted - Now they were little more then a mild warm up to get the day started. In an hour, they'd be heading out for their scouting mission. Meagan was a bundle of energy, and her sparring partner was having difficulty keeping up. Only his fast reflexes kept Jay from getting badly injured - Meagan was still learning the discipline needed to hold back upon contact.

Gregory and Adrian traded blows in another corner of the gym, Adrian using Gregory's strength against him. Still, Gregory had landed a few well placed hits - Adrian would feel this session tomorrow, but it wouldn't impair his performance today.

Sol had sparred with her, but it hadn't lasted long. After being thrown to the ground half a dozen times, he'd agreed that beating up on the equipment would probably be a more effective training method - siblings they may have been, but even he couldn't stand up to Diana in hand to hand combat.

"Okay people, hit the showers! I want every one to be ready to go in 30 minutes!" She called out, watching as the small group finished and filed out of the room. Smiling, she stepped into the centre of the room, and finished her own session by perfecting a half-remembered fan dance she'd learnt years ago - minus the fan of course.

Half an hour later, Adrian and Diana cautiously made their way down the steep incline that made up the southern wall of what they hoped was the rebels' base. Out of all the possible approaches, this had been the safest, excluding the obvious north-eastern one. A rocky ledge half-way down would provide the perfect cover from which to make their survey - given they could reach it without too much trouble.

Despite being careful, Adrian and Diana had nearly fallen twice. If there was anyone below, they hadn't noticed the loose dirt trickling down. "Proceed with caution. I'm sure I've already said it twice, Captain." The reply Diana gave Jay was extremely impolite. She'd almost lost her footing again.

"I think it's safe to say we'll be using a frontal assault." She growled out as she finally dropped down onto the ledge.

"Agreed," Adrian lowered himself on to the rocky outcrop, and began setting up the surveillance equipment they'd brought along as his commanding officer wiggled forward to look over the edge. Using only a pair of binoculars, she studied the area.

"Well, it seems as if my birdie was right. They've been here, recently." She murmured, her headset picking up the soft sound and relaying it back to their base ops team.

"Sitrep?" queried Sol, listening in on the radio channel. He and Meagan were ready to go if there was trouble.

"Haphazard organization. Most of their buildings are hidden in the shadows of these hills. It's no wonder we haven't picked them up on any fly-overs. Two, possibly three tunnel systems." Diana scanned the area again, increasing the magnification. "Can't give you anything more detailed then that right now Lieutenant. We'll need a couple of hours to survey this place properly."

"Acknowledged. Be careful Sis."

'Going down,' Diana decided as she grabbed Adrian's arm to keep him from falling, 'is a lot easier then going up.' They had finished their surveillance, and were now in the process of making their way to the extraction point. Unfortunately gravity and ground were both working against them, seemingly determined to cause one or both of the soldiers to fall. Their journey upward was not made any easier by the packs they carried.

"I'll be glad to get back to the base." Diana grumbled. Adrian nodded his agreement as thy finally reached the top. At least the rest of the trip down would be easy - the ground, though still steep, was grassy and not as difficult to navigate.

"Well, well, look whose back." Adrian's reply was far politer then his CO's would have been, and he'd even been considerate enough to tack on a Lieutenant when he addressed Sol. It still wasn't something he'd care to repeat had he been in a better mood. Sol chuckled.

"It was like that huh? I could have warned you accepting an invitation to a one on one paintball match from our dear Captain wouldn't be intelligent."

"You could have but you didn't Lieutenant. Why?"

Sol looked at the sorry sight before him. It had been two days since their scouting mission, and a message from HQ had sent his sister into one of her moods. None of them knew what the message was, but they all believed it had something to do with the lack of activity concerning the rebels, and the paintball invitations Diana had been issuing today. So far, only Adrian had taken her up on the offer - he'd paid dearly for his bravery.

His usually well kept hair was a tangled mess and, horror of horrors, pink. The paint had dried into his hair, and despite having tried his hardest, Adrian hadn't been able to remove it all. He looked exhausted, and a smattering of bruises could be seen on the right of his neck and collar.

"I was hoping for some entertainment." Sol admitted, rummaging through a cupboard nearby. He was looking for a cream that would help take the sting out of the various cuts and scrapes that littered the other Lieutenant's body. Why was he rummaging in a cupboard and not the medical sector? Possibly because they kept such items everywhere - just in case.

"She beat me. I'm the professional marksman, and she beat me. I suppose you are satisfied?"

"No." Adrian was surprised by the barely contained anger in Sol's voice. He'd been expecting a cheerful yes, or a joke of some sort. The seriousness in Sol's voice threw him off balance enough that he didn't notice when Sol began slathering the cream on to his minor cuts.

"Whatever message came through from HQ, she shouldn't be taking it out on the rest of us. And by using you for target practice, that's exactly what she's doing. Oh, she can claim it's a part of our training, but it's just an excuse to blow off some steam."

Adrian winced as Sol tended a rather painful scratch.

"Sorry." Sol sounded too distracted to actually mean it, but Adrian didn't mind. He was more interested in what Sol was saying. After all, who could understand their Captain better then her own brother?

There were others, but Adrian had never met any of them, nor was he likely to. None of the unit even knew who their team-mates had been before joining the project. Those people ceased to exist, except in their own heads.

Sol was now silent, working his way across Adrian's back, having carefully removed the jacket and top earlier. It was mostly bruises, but they were already large and dark. Adrian flinched slightly, the only sign of his discomfort.

"Lieutenant?" Meagan sounded almost meek.

"Which one?" questioned Sol dryly as he finished tending to Adrian. Adrian retrieved his paint splattered jacket and thanked the other male quietly as Meagan glanced between the two.

"Ah, either of you, or even both…" It was unusual to see the girl looking so uncertain.

"We're listening." Sol frowned slightly as he spoke.

"Someone should talk to the Captain." Now Meagan sounded like herself. Direct and somewhat forceful, her tone left no room for questions. "She's not acting like herself. She's moody, nasty, and short on patience. We need to know why."

"And who would you suggest, Ensign?" Adrian asked quietly. "I've no desire to speak to her so soon after that training match."

"And she won't listen to me," Sol pointed out. "I am just her brother after all. She'll just tell me to shove off."

"And Gregory isn't a great talker, and Jay's been called off to help the other medical staff - Some sort of emergency. She won't listen to the rookie either." Meagan finished, frowning. "So we just stay out of her way until she's calmed down?"

Sol nodded, returning the jar of cream to the cupboard. "It's the only thing we can do, unless you want to contact HQ and ask them what they said to Diana." The other two shook their heads.

The bullets weren't hitting the targets anymore. Hadn't been hitting them for the past hour or so actually, but she didn't seem to notice. She was shaking, barely able to stand. Her breath was coming out in ragged gasps, yet she didn't stop. The gun barked again and again. When it had emptied its contents, she'd remove the cartridge and insert a new one. The cycle began again.

When Diana had first arrived here and started, no one had been concerned - She often came to the range to practise. After two hours of steady shooting, the soldiers had begun to wonder. After three, they had vacated the range and expressed their concerns. 4 hours after she had begun, the Admiral had declared that the range was off-limits. It was now 6 and a half hours after the young Captain had turned up, and despite her obvious exhaustion, she didn't look as if she intended to stop any time soon.

Diana and her unit may have been elite soldiers, and he knew that technically he had no power over the woman - she answered to a totally different line of command after all, but he had to do something. He just hoped that his higher rank would be enough to convince Diana to leave.

"Captain Stein." The woman didn't stop, but she did at least acknowledge his presence.

"Admiral Ronald." The gun barked twice before silence filled the air - she was out of ammo again.

"Captain, you need rest. You've been at this for half the day."

"I'm fine." She reached for a new cartridge, only to find her wrist held tightly by the Admiral.

"Diana, this is sheer folly. You're exhausted. You can't even shoot straight. Enough is enough, Captain. You will return to your quarters, and you will rest. I don't know what has you so worked up, but I will not allow you to continue this stupidity."

Diana blinked up at the Admiral. Stuart Ronald was one of the few higher-ranking officers here that she had any respect for. It was perhaps best that she didn't alienate one of her few allies by ignoring his advice. "Very well Sir." She pulled her hand out of his grip and saluted. The gun returned to its holder, and she turned sharply stalking away. Somehow, despite her exhaustion, she still managed to make it appear graceful and dignified.

Admiral Ronald shook his head as he watched. Heaven help the fool who'd made her so angry.

"There will be a briefing at 0900 tomorrow." Diana informed her brother over a private meal. The moment she'd returned he'd grabbed her and dragged her to his room where a dinner for two waited. He'd tried to get her to talk; to explain herself, but she'd remained silent throughout the entirety of the meal. So to have her speak now was somewhat surprising.

"Why?" Surprise didn't stop him from asking questions.

"You'll find out tomorrow." Sol looked as if he was about to speak, but Diana shook her head. "No Sol, you'll find out tomorrow, along with everyone else." She paused a moment, and glanced back at her brother from the doorway. "How's Lieutenant Summerton?"

Sol scowled. "He could be doing better. Which is something we need to talk about…" He sighed. Diana was already gone.

At 9 am, the CHO unit assembled. All were looking forward to an explanation for their commanding officer's strange behaviour. All except for the commanding officer herself, who was currently still in her quarters, staring at her reflection. Sad, haunted eyes stared back at her, framed by black hair. She just couldn't bring herself to do so much as put it in an elastic band, let alone braid it or put it into a bun. Moodily she finished doing up her uniform, and headed to the briefing room.

She was 10 minutes late, but upon seeing her dark expression, nobody commented. They waited silently. Diana studied each member of her unit, her eyes lingering longer on Meagan, Adrian and Sol. Her anger at HQ flared once more, burning deep in her heart. How dare those bigoted fools make such a decision without even speaking with her?

"Yesterday, at 0800 hours, we received new orders. We are to give any and all information we have concerning the rebels and their camp to Admiral Ronald and his men. In two days, we will re-locate to a small base near Victoria - ZAFT has recently acquired the mass driver there, and we are to form part of those who will wear down the defenders. When we have completed this task, we will be re-assigned."

She couldn't look her team-mates in the eye as she continued. Instead, she focused on a wall hanging on the far wall. It was a Japanese wall scroll, and it had been painted by Meagan on Diana's request. She knew the words on there perfectly, even if she had little knowledge of the language. Duty and Honour.

"The Combat Heightened Operative Project, known as CHO to those who have taken part in the program, has been declared a failure." How it hurt to say that. She couldn't keep the bitterness out of her voice. "Our assignment in the African Community will be our last. It is with the deepest regret that I inform you that the unit will be disbanded and its members re-assigned. The CHO project is no more."

Author's note: So begins my first exploration into the Gundam Seed universe.

Many thanks to Solid Shark who has permitted me to play around in his wonderful AU 'Birds of a Feather'. There will most certainly be more references to the events of his story as I continue.

I apologise for how similar my opening is to the one in 'Birds of a Feather' – I find it an intriguing way to introduce the main character.

There really isn't much else to say, as this is the first chapter. So please, read it, and let me know what you think. – Darkness.