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Disclaimer: Disclaimer: Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED CE 73 STARGAZER, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED ASTRAY, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED MSV and SEED DESTINY MSV are the property of Bandai and Sunrise, not me. I make no money off this little venture. This is purely for entertainment purposes, and no copyright infringement is intended.

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'cuz I should probably post something here for once, here's a little one-shot piece that takes place after my retelling of DESTINY, and before the imminent sequel, "Mobile Suit Gundam SEED TWILIGHT." Not having read my retelling of DESTINY will make this confusing at best, and it's also a preview at best for "TWILIGHT," but to quote the great Doctor Emmett Brown, "Well, I figured...what the hell!"

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June 15th, CE 76 - Antarctica

I'm a monster.

It's not a fun conclusion to come to, really. It wasn't something I ever specifically set out to be. But it's what I am, and if I've learned anything since that miserable day five years ago, it's that you can't change who you are.

And, as I float among the debris of yet another poorly protected Earth Alliance convoy with, once again, no survivors, it occurs to me that that's the only conclusion I can come to anyway.

How did I come to this? Two years ago, I thought I could change the world if I destroyed that ZAFT superweapon and disarmed the two warring sides, like the Three Ships Alliance did in CE 71. But that did not happen, and now Lord Djibril rules the world. And now I am a soldier of the Resistance. My name freezes the blood of grown men. Guerrillas and Resistance fighters across the Earth Sphere invoke me in their prayers to whatever entity they appeal to for protection from the guns and hounds of the Phantom Pain. There was even a cleric in Basra who declared me to be the Mahdi, the hidden twelfth imam who had returned to Earth to mete out God's judgment and usher in a glorious new age of peace and justice; a sort of Islamic Messiah, if you will. At least, said cleric declared me such before the Muslim Brotherhood assassinated him, anyway. So much for the nascent Muslim splinter sect of Asuka-ism. Roxy would've never let me hear the end of it. She already likes calling me the Antichrist, and she does appreciate irony.

I glance around the panoramic monitor of my loyal steed, the Destiny Gundam. All I can see is the water and the wreckage of the convoy. It looks like I went out too far ahead of the Minerva again. I could fly back to them, I suppose, but they'll be on their way anyway. Stella wouldn't have it any other way, and I know Meyrin wouldn't let me down. So I'll let them come to me.

Besides, I'm not very far from the graves. And I have something there that I'd like to do.

I guide the Destiny up into the air and head east. The Alliance convoy I just converted into a lot of wasted taxpayer dollars was carrying equipment and personnel meant to start excavating the former ZAFT base on Antarctica. With a "ZAFT temporary staging ground" in the Falkland Islands to smash and all sorts of exciting rebellions cropping up around the globe, as well as the prospect of the ZAFT forces in space, the Alliance had neglected to give the place a more thorough search when they came barging through in CE 74. The Junk Guild has probably taken all the really cool stuff by now, but the Alliance sent this convoy to go make sure.

And it looks like they're going to have to send another one, because the first convoy isn't going anywhere now.

I ease the Destiny in low over the snowy plains. Up ahead, I can see the dark splotches of the former ZAFT base, wrecked and smashed. Even the wrecked Alliance weapons are still there. Very many people died here.

To the side, I can see the ruins of the Freedom Gundam. No, I can't think about that. I'm not here for that. I'm here for someone else.

I set my trusty Gundam down on a small snow bank overlooking a field of debris. This is what I came for. This is what I have to do. Wrapping myself up tight in my coat, I take a deep breath, undoing the restraints and opening the cockpit hatch. A blast of cold air hits me like an avalanche, but I'm a Coordinator— I can handle this. I activate the zip line and drop down to the snow, and proceed towards the ruins. The Destiny stands sentinel over me; over everything; the guardian of the dead, as it were.

I come to a halt in front of the remains of the Kasselheim.

They were all my friends, of course. They were all the ones who relied on me to protect them. They were all the ones who sheltered me when I felt abandoned and alone against the world. And every face I remember brings me a new pang of pain.

But there is one face in particular that I still can't bear to see.

You're not a monster, the voice says.

I smile. She's always here.

"Yes I am, Kika. Parents in the Atlantic Federation end their threats to their children with '...or else the man with the wings of light will get you.' That's about as monstrous as it gets."

She laughs. You can't be that bad.

"I must be pretty bad if CNN keeps thinking up new nicknames for me."

They're naming the Gundam. They know nothing about you. I swear I can feel her arms wrapping around me, her chin on my shoulder, and, um, something else pushing up against my back. That feels about like the Kika Rosemary I know. Subtlety was never one of her strong points.

"This isn't what I wanted to be," I tell her. "This wasn't the way it was supposed to turn out."

Lips against my cheek— more of that award-winning subtlety of hers. This must be why part of me intensely regrets not having more sex with her than I did— a part that I've made it a point not to listen to. That part always gets me in trouble.

No, it's not what anyone wants to be, but it's what you are. And on the bright side, you're a hero to millions of people and give them hope and a reason to get up in the morning. I can almost see the devious grin. Besides, I bet you're getting more pussy than you know what to do with now.

I sniff indifferently. "My line of work isn't really something you can go bragging about to girls." I pause— normally, I wouldn't be bold enough to broach this sort of subject with anyone else, but this is different, and Kika is different. "And as I recall, I didn't really know what to do with yours, so the prospects for improvement aren't looking too good."

You figured it out quickly enough, she laughs. But really. Dashing, swashbuckling rebel with a Gundam that causes grown men to piss themselves? Handsome face with three very distinctive scars that I see you still haven't gotten removed? And I dare say you've finally grown some of that muscle I said you needed. Now you're the kind of guy that girls think about when they first discover the many uses of the massaging shower head.

Now it's my turn to smile. Just what I need, to be the object of teenage girls' fantasies. "I'll never remove these scars. They're Stella's mark on me. To remove them would be to go back to the way I was before I met her. And I can't do that."

I know. It's what makes you who you are. And you know as well as I do that you can't escape that.

I gaze into the wreckage. She's in there somewhere, in some form, even if it's not the form that can stand next to me.

But you aren't a monster, she continues. No more than any soldier who signs up to protect his country is a monster.

"I'm protecting a ship," I answer. Another pause. "And to be totally honest, I wake up at night sometimes in a cold sweat, fearing that I'll fail the Minerva the way I failed you."

Immediately the arms around me tighten, and judging by the, uh, pressure that's being put on my chest, she's moved around in front of me.

You did nothing of the sort. We've gone over this a million times, Shinn. I don't want you coming here all the time like a boomerang, never able to get beyond us. It wasn't your fault that we died. It just happened. And since you can come here and we can still be together like this, because of those weird-ass powers of yours, I guess the only thing that was really lost was a bunch of bodies. Once again, that sly grin. She's full of those. Although that does curtail some possibilities...

"I didn't come here to do that with your residual presence," I protest with a smile. "I don't really understand how this phenomenon works, but I don't think you can have sex through it."

Have you tried?

"It's cold out here."

...okay, true.

It's bittersweet, because I don't really know if I'm actually somehow conversing with the lovely brunette who stole my heart and a couple other intangible parts of my being from beyond the grave, or if this is just a hallucination on my part. I want to believe that this is real, that death is not the final word, that everything I wanted to say doesn't have to go unsaid...but there are lots of things I want to believe in this world, that I can't. And with all that I've been through in my eighteen years, I wouldn't be terribly surprised anyway if my psyche had resorted to just making shit up to keep me functioning.

I'm sorry, she says. I guess the topic of sex must still be a sore one for you.

Another indifferent sniff. "George was right when he told me that I was being dumb for attaching emotion to it."

Well, I was being dumb for assuming that you wouldn't, because it meant a lot more to me than just pure physical pleasure. I know you enjoyed it during that night, but I know it caused you problems later on, and for that, I want to tell you that I'm sorry.

She told me that before. What could I do but forgive her? "I'm a Newtype, Kika," I remind her. "I can sense emotions. I know why you did it; and now that I've had all this time to sit around and wallow in self-pity and remorse over it, I understand why you did it." I shake my head sadly. "I must have promised to protect you a thousand times and it never occurred to me that I might fail."

Well, whether it was a broken promise or not, it doesn't matter to me. Her voice falls silent as I feel the familiar sensation of her lips against mine, and even still, I can sense her frustration at not being able to express her feelings in any way other than physically. I must say that a whole lot of my life makes sense now that I look at it through the eyes of a Newtype. You stayed the man I love, Shinn. That's all the promise I need.

All the promise she needs, maybe. But I don't have to do much to fulfill that. And it doesn't really make me feel like I kept my promise.

I glance over the wreckage again. By now it has been covered in snow. "I wonder what my family thinks of me right now."

What do you think they think of you?

I cast my gaze surreptitiously towards whatever direction I think Orb is in. "My father agreed very much with Uzumi Nara Athha's policies," I explain. "My mother didn't really have an opinion, but she was definitely neutral in regards to the whole Coordinators versus Naturals thing. And Mayu was too young to really understand it." I manage an ironic sigh. "And here I am, the star pilot of the Resistance, with an illustrious career as an ace for ZAFT, a space pirate, and a pilot for the Orb Raiders behind me." I shake my head again. "My father would be furious at me for abandoning the Athha family's policies; my mother would be furious at me for unnecessarily putting myself at risk in combat."

Hey, I can relate there. You do some pretty crazy shit sometimes.

"Yeah," I answer, "but you're the only one whose response was to seduce me. I, uh, don't think Mayu would've thought of that." A sigh. "Mayu would just be scared that I would get hurt. I don't think they'd be proud of me."

Her embrace tightens again; I feel her head on my shoulder, soothing. I think they would be, she says. I think they'd see that their son has grown into a man who uses his sense of right and wrong to protect people and try to do good in the world, even if that means flying a Gundam and fighting in a war.

I smile. That would be nice, but my parents would never understand that. They would have to be Newtypes...and if they ever were, I don't believe any of us knew it.

"That's what I'd like to believe, but even if I may be extraordinary, my family was not. I came from pretty normal suburban stock."

Tell me about it. I didn't know you could store that much blood in your face.

"Maybe Mayu would understand," I continue. "But she would probably be too worried that I'd get hurt."

I can relate. Slicing up battleships with a beam saber might seem like a good idea to you, but to those of us who are watching, it's just scary.

"The people who get a front row seat for that know me well enough by now to remember that I know what I'm doing," I point out. "And either way, most of 'em are used to me pulling crazy stunts like that now, if they're not pulling crazy stunts of their own. We are the Minerva, after all."

Yeah, how's that for irony? Chased around the Earth Sphere by that ship during the war, and now you're protecting it.

I smile again. Irony indeed. Automatically, my thoughts turn to all the other little slices of irony on that ship.

"Meyrin's grown up."

Meyrin? Who?

"The Minerva's new captain. During the war, she was the comm officer. The captain and vice captain were killed, and somehow she got pressed into the role. And it doesn't suit her. She's too meek and polite to be yelling orders at us." More irony. "And of all the people to replace her...I imagine Roxy will be giving me hell for being out here later."

Roxy? Are you giving me competition now?

The thought of Kika trying to compete over me with the Minerva's new hard-drinking, hard-smoking, nasty little bitch of a communications officer is kind of nauseating, so I'm just not going to entertain it. "She drinks and smokes about as much as the entire crew of the Kasselheim ever did. I will bet money that she was a porn star or a gangster or something before we picked her up."

Wow. So you're rolling with porn stars and gangsters now. That's different.

"You get some colorful people in the Resistance. A week ago I was having lunch with the leader of the Belorussian Communist Party." Another pause. "My parents probably wouldn't be too proud of that one, either."

Is that why you came here? To figure out what your parents thought of your new lifestyle?

"I don't know what I came here for, actually. I guess I was just in the neighborhood, so to speak." I stare into the wreckage for a moment. "And I guess we all need to be reassured every now and then that we're doing the right thing."

Well, be assured, you are. You've grown up into quite the interesting fellow.

"Well, I try."

In the distance, I can see the angelic form of the Minerva cruising in over the ocean. My cell phone buzzes insistently at me; as I thought, or feared, it's Roxy.

"What the hell are you doing out here?" she demands. "Jesus, you drag us all the way out here to find you and everything! It's cold! Get your ass back in the hangar!"

Is that Roxy? Kika asks.


Um, I see.

I bring the phone up to my ear— with Roxy, it's generally a good idea to leave some distance between the phone and your ear, if you want to preserve your hearing. "I'll be on my way back in a minute. I just wanted to come here and pay my respects."

"Okay, okay," Roxy says, as it dawns on her exactly what significance this patch of wreckage holds for me, "but hurry up, will ya? I'm freezing my tits off here."

"And we wouldn't want you to lose such fine extremities on my account, would we," I deadpan. I snap the phone shut before she can shoot back with some kind of snappy retort and look back towards the wreckage.

You worry too much, Shinn, Kika tells me. Your friends are waiting for you.

"I know." But I can't just leave like this.

Besides, she adds, you've gotta go take care of Stella.

It's times like this that I wish I could return the gesture, as the feeling of her lips on mine returns. If this is a hallucination, it's a damn cruel one.

I glance over at the Minerva, waiting patiently for me. My friends; my home. Something left in the world that I can use my power to protect.

I head back to the Destiny. After all, they are waiting for me.

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