Preface: Since you are here reading Gundam SEED fan fiction, I'm going to assume that you are familiar with the series. However, in case you are not I would recommend that you watch the first five episodes of SEED or read a synopsis of the beginning of the series. For those of you already familiar, nothing has changed prior to this, the point of Kira's capture. I'll try to remain consistent with characters and major events, if possible.

Title: "Dust and Fire" is a phrase from the Rudyard Kipling poem Pharaoh and the Sergeant. It refers to the guidance of the eponymous Sergeant Whatsisname, itself an allusion to the biblical passage Exodus 13:21, "And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light."

And now, for the ubiquitous disclaimer: I do not own the rights to Gundam SEED, Gundam SEED Destiny, or any of the characters contained therein. This is purely a work of fan fiction of my own devising.


C.E. 71

Cautions

Athrun Zala watched, deeply conflicted, as his comrade-in-arms barreled towards his old friend.

"As if I'll let them withdraw! Even if it's only this one unit!" shouted Yzak Joule over the radio as the Earth Alliance assualt ship launched recovery flares.

"Yzak! It's a withdrawal order!" said Athrun, pushing back in his flight couch, having just received orders from the Vessalius and Commander Rau La Creuset to pull back.

"Shut up, coward!" came Yzak's reply.

Athrun gritted his teeth in anger and leaned forward, watching Yzak close in on the Strike… and Kira Yamato. The Duel and Strike wove in and out in the choreographed dance of mobile suit combat. Athrun leaned back as Dearka Elsman entered the fray, blasting away with the heavy weapons of the Buster. Suddenly, Yzak darted forward charging at the Strike just as Athrun could see its Phase Shift Armor failing.

"I've got you now!" screamed Yzak over the comm.

Athrun threw open his throttle, sending the Aegis forward at top speed and shifting it into its grapple mode, as the center opened up and formed claws. He arrived seconds before Yzak, grabbing the strike in the claws before speeding off towards the Gamow.

"What are you doing Athrun?!" yelled Yzak on the radio.

"I'm capturing this unit," said Athrun resolutely, watching the distance increase between the Earth Forces ship and himself.

"What?!" screamed Yzak.

"We're ordered to destroy it!" said Dearka. "Stop doing things on your own accord!"

"It's better to capture it if we can!" said Athrun, obstinate. "Retreat!"

"Athrun!" screamed Yzak, frustrated beyond coherent words.

"Athrun, what are you trying to do?" said Kira, forcing himself into the ZAFT network.

"I'm taking you to the Gamow," came Athrun's matter-of-fact reply.

"Stop joking!" yelled Kira. "I'm not going to a ZAFT ship."

"You're a coordinator," said Athrun. "One of us."

"No, I'm not part of ZAFT!" said Kira.

"Stop this nonsense Kira!" yelled Athrun. He paused a moment before his voice returned, nearly a whisper. "You will come. Otherwise… I'll have to fire at you1" Athrun's handed trembled on his flight stick.

"Athrun…" muttered Kira over the comm.

"My mother died in the Bloody Valentine incident," Athrun said quietly. "I…" He was cut off by a warning tone as an Earth Alliance mobile armor began its attack run. He dodged the initial shots as the mobile armor shot past on its first dive. But then Dearka and Yzak, as well as Nicol Amalfi, began firing back, forcing the mobile armor to break off momentarily while Athrun powered on towards the waiting Gamow. The mobile armor kept making pass after pass, but the three mobile suits were simply too capable, and while they couldn't destroy the Earth Alliance fighter outright, they held it off until it too was low on power.


After laying the unpowered Strike on the floor of the Gamow's docking bay, Athrun walked the Aegis over to an open mobile suit berth and powered down. Finished, he flipped the switch opening the Aegis's cockpit and floated out. Orienting himself to the captured mobile suit, he pushed off. As he grabbed hold to the supine suit's chest to stop himself, a ZAFT security team arrived, armed with assault rifles trained on the still closed hatch of the Strike.

"Kira!" he yelled, pounding on the hatch. "It's pointless! Open up!"

He sighed and stood back, removing his helmet.

"Kira, you're aboard a ZAFT ship and you're out of power. Please come out."

After another silent moment, the Strike hissed as the cockpit hatch slid open and Kira climbed out. He and Athrun looked at each other for a moment before the security personnel grabbed Kira. Athrun remained still, staring at his friend who was being led to the ship's brig. As the personnel hatch from the hangar slid closed behind the retreating figures, Athrun sighed and sat down on the now pilot-less mobile suit.

"So much sacrifice, just for you. Are you worth it?" he asked of the Strike, patting the gray armor with his hand.

"Zala!"

Athrun looked up and saw Yzak flying towards him at high speed, with a furious look on his face. He impacted with Athrun at high speed and proceeded to drag himself up to get in the blue haired man's face.

"What do you think you were doing!!" he screamed, spittle landing on Athrun's face. "You are a complete idiot! I should have killed you and then the Strike!"

"Yzak! Enough!" yelled Nicol as he landed next to his fellow and tore the raging silver haired pilot from his friend.

"Come on Yzak," said Dearka, landing next to Nicol. "Athrun is already going to get in trouble. Don't join him."

With a huff, Yzak pushed off Athrun and floated away towards the pilots' briefing room, Dearka in tow.

"Athrun, I know Yzak isn't really that angry," said Nicol. "I mean, you did violate orders, but…"

Athrun nodded, pushing himself up to a standing position.

"I… It's just…" he began, only to be cut off by the all hands chime over the PA.

"Athrun Zala to the bridge. Athrun Zala to the bridge."

Giving Nicol a shrug, Athrun turned and kicked off for the personnel hatch.


A/N: I'm sorry if some of the dialogue and descriptions seem to be a little choppy at the beginning of the chapter. It is taken literally from the subbed episode 5 of SEED up until Nicol, Yzak, and Dearka turn Mu La Flaga back. The physical actions of Athrun and the translated lines of the various characters are perhaps somewhat lacking in text when compared to their aural affect in the series.

"Cautions" are words preparatory to words of command in late 1800's British military parlance. Again, from Rudyard Kipling's Pharaoh and the Sergeant. See a pattern?

Romance will be coming later. Please be patient.