Mobile Suit Gundam SEED TWILIGHT

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 FRAME ASTRAYS, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED CE 73 DELTA ASTRAY, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED MSV and Mobile Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY MSV are the property of Bandai and Sunrise, not me. I make no money off of this work. This is purely for entertainment purposes, and no copyright infringement is intended.

This is a sequel to my retelling of Gundam SEED DESTINY, by the same name. That story was a sprawling tale that spanned two years, six separate pieces of fanfiction, and about a hundred characters. It was an alternate universe version that took some rather divergent paths from the original story of Gundam SEED DESTINY (not to mention took a long time to write). Understanding this story, "SEED TWILIGHT," is entirely contingent on reading my rewrite of DESTINY. Reading the pre-sequel, "Red Planet," is not necessary, but it does explain what at least one very important character is up to in the time between DESTINY and "TWILIGHT."

I will post a new chapter every Friday, or the soonest day thereafter should something arise on Friday to keep me from posting.

In CE 74, the Junius War came to an end, with ZAFT attempting to fire its new superweapon Solomon's Sword at the Earth. The attempt failed; Solomon's Sword was disabled before it could fire and subsequently destroyed by the forces of the Earth Alliance. FAITH member Valentine Sunogachi and Strike Freedom Gundam pilot Kira Yamato led the ZAFT fleet in a retreat to Mars.

In CE 77, Lord Djibril's Earth Alliance brutally subjugates the world, hunting down and killing any remaining Coordinators. To fight back, a patchwork Resistance has been formed, but it is splintered along religious, political, and ethnic lines, and in three years of civil war, its successes have been few.

However, among this fragile coalition of tribes and sects and parties, the warship Minerva and its powerful contingent of Gundams are universally seen as the symbol of hope for the oppressed...

Phase 01 - The Destiny Gundam

February 23rd, CE 77 - Reykjavik, Iceland

The two men came to a stop at a sidewalk bench. One pulled a bottle of water from his pocket, and unscrewed the cap with a flick of his wrist, glancing down at the concrete bench facing a frozen water canal that vanished around a cluster of buildings; he brought the plastic bottle to his lips, taking a long drink. A drop of water escaped from the corner of his mouth, but he brushed it off, rubbing his scruffy, black-bearded chin and scraping the ragged black hair out of his lined face.

"Vermilion," he began in a gravelly, aged voice, glancing at his companion through the puffy white cloud of his own breath, "we've still got a few hours."

Vermilion crossed his arms. He returned the first man's gaze, adjusting the thin, dark sunglasses over his young face as they slipped down his nose, brushing unkempt black hair from his shielded eyes.

"We'll find something to do, Hakim," Vermilion answered. He turned back towards the canal. "The ship won't leave for a few more days anyway."

Hakim slumped down on the bench, crossing one thick brown combat boot over the other. "Might as well get what we can now, then, insha'Allah," he pointed out, gesturing with his bottle before bringing it back to his lips.

Vermilion shrugged. "We have plenty of time. Inspecting the ship will take a while, and he always has to make a showy entrance too."

As if on cue, a huge jet roared overhead. Vermilion and Hakim glanced up at the white and sky-blue shuttle emblazoned with the seal of the Earth Alliance, escorted on either side by the shadowy forms of two black mobile suits.

"Right on time," Vermilion said with a smile.

"You gotta teach me to do that someday," Hakim muttered.

Vermilion idly kicked a rock with the toe of his tall black leather boot. "We'll give it a couple of hours," he said, "and see what—"

He trailed off, looking towards the crowds as they shuffled along the sidewalks. Hakim looked up at him sharply, his gloved fist clenching around his water bottle.

"What is it?" he asked, his voice hushed and tight.

Vermilion frowned.

I feel something... he thought. ...pressure...that I haven't felt before... He looked back towards Hakim. "Someone..."

"What do you mean?" Hakim asked, casting an uneasy glance towards the pedestrians himself. Vermilion raised his hand enough to stay Hakim's, as the older man reached reassuringly for the pistol that Vermilion knew he had somewhere in his coat.

"Not an enemy," he added. Hakim's tension did not vanish. "But someone..." He returned his gaze to the crowd. Pressure...

A single person passed into his field of view, standing out amid the blurs of heavy coats and moving bodies. Vermilion caught the gaze of a teenage girl's wide green eyes, framed by wavy orange-red hair. Something came to life in her eyes, a name flashed into Vermilion's mind as he detected a twinge of fear, and she tried to disappear into the crowd.

"Her?" Hakim asked, after she had gone.

Vermilion blinked his disorientation away. "She was...like me," he said haltingly. He looked down at Hakim. "One of us."

Hakim glanced back in the direction she had gone. "One of you?"

Vermilion frowned determinedly. "Follow her," he said, "and let me know what you find out."

Hakim nodded, taking another swig of water and getting up, slipping into the crowds and disappearing.

Vermilion looked back after him, still turning the feeling over in his mind.

Emily...?

Earth Alliance battleship Charlemagne, Heaven's Base, Iceland

With a hiss and a blast of steam, the hatch opened, dozens of arms sprang up in a prompt salute, and a hollow clicking sound preceded the dark, terrifying figure of Lord Djibril.

The tall, trim man stood with a long black cane with a steel skull at its head in hand, grimly surveying the tableau before him. Although dressed in a simple and understated black suit with a long black trench coat, collar upturned, it was clear that he was a leader, a man not to be crossed. Another man in the black Phantom Pain variation of the new design of the ubiquitous Earth Alliance uniform stepped forward, saluting sharply.

"On behalf of the crew," the grizzled, mustachioed man said, "welcome aboard the Charlemagne, President Djibril."

Djibril seized the man's hand in a firm handshake. "Captain Ivan Danilov," he said ostentatiously. "You're in command of the finest ship we've yet built. I hope you'll take care of it."

"Of course, sir," Danilov answered. "The best crew and pilots of the Phantom Pain have been assigned to this ship. I can't go wrong with a contingent like that."

"You have a special mission, captain," Djibril continued. He gestured to the captain's chair—Danilov handed him the intercom speaker. "One that your entire crew must know." He flicked the intercom on, casting a sweeping gaze out over the Charlemagne's vast hull. "Crew of the new Alliance warship LCAM/V-01XA2 Charlemagne," he said, loudly and grandly, "this is Lord Djibril, President of the Earth Alliance. Your attention is requested."

Danilov absently imagined that he could feel the crew snap to attention through the floor of the bridge.

"For three years, we have fought a bitter civil war against Chiao Xu and the Resistance," Djibril continued. "We would be fools to ignore their strength. They are organized and determined to sow the seeds of discord throughout this world we have fought so hard to forge. We cannot allow them to continue doing so. As we all know, they are a disparate group—they represent the last scraps of ZAFT, as well as a wide array of enemies, spanning Marxist guerillas, Islamic fundamentalists, Tibetan separatists, African insurgents, and criminal elements. We have fought a palette that represents the world. And we have had as many successes as we have had failures.

"But this motley array of enemies has one guiding, unifying symbol among their combative ranks—the Minerva." Djibril visibly suppressed a scowl. "For three years, the Minerva has harassed us and bloodied us, and always eluded justice, protected by the shimmering wings of ZAFT's prodigal son. Many pilots have launched to fight him. Few have returned.

"But today, that will change! This warship was built by the brightest minds of the Earth Sphere, and is crewed by you, the best that the Phantom Pain has to offer! Field Marshal Markav herself has testified to the worthiness of each and every one of you, from Captain Danilov down to the lowliest deckhand. Such a gathering of skill is necessary to crush our mortal foe. Charlemagne, your mission is simple—find and destroy the Minerva!"

Djibril replaced the intercom on the side of the captain's chair and turned to Danilov. "Captain," he said, "as an officer of the Phantom Pain, you are authorized to use your full authority in pursuit of the Minerva. Do not leave a single recognizable scrap of that ship left."

Danilov promptly saluted. "Yes sir."

Djibril swept out of the room as ominously as he had entered, and Danilov heaved a sigh once the bridge door shut. He turned towards his second-in-command, finding Commander Vera Wilson still standing at attention. Behind her crisp black Phantom Pain uniform and her upturned shock of blonde hair, Danilov could see her blue eyes sparkling—she was still dazzled at having been so close to the most powerful man in the universe.

"Captain," one of the deckhands said, "we've still got a few more days before we can officially set out. The supplies are not yet fully loaded and the checks haven't been finished."

"Then let's get to it," Danilov said. "Vera." She snapped out of her trance and promptly turned towards her captain. "Make sure all the supplies are loaded and the mobile suits are accounted for. This is our maiden voyage—there is to be no slipping up."

"Yes sir," she answered, full of energy, and immediately plunged into the growing buzz of work on the bridge. Danilov turned towards the windows, casting a forbidding glance across the grim tableau of the dry-dock at Heaven's Base.

"It's strange," he muttered to himself. "We won the war three years ago, but we still keep finding people to fight."

A can of soda—no alcohol was allowed on the base premises, of course, thanks to the Phantom Pain's austere policies—went sailing across the walkway, landing with a clatter on the ground. Across the way, Shams Coza sneered as Lord Djibril's voice boomed across the airfield.

"The best of Phantom Pain?" he scoffed, casting a smirk across the base grounds, towards the hulking shadow of the Charlemagne. "We're not even on it." He fidgeted in annoyance with the cuffs of his black Phantom Pain uniform.

Next to him, Mudie Holcroft idly toyed with the collar of her own uniform, with the shirt pulled open and a pair of faded blue jeans replacing the black slacks as per her usual, unique tastes. "They're all idiots anyway," she mumbled, half to herself, staring down at the airfield below.

Standing apart from Shams and Mudie, Sven Cal Bayan crossed his arms, staring out towards the Charlemagne. The ship would not take off for a few more days, and the base commandant had specifically asked Sven to keep his Devil's Sword Team here on standby, to provide security should something go wrong before the Charlemagne launched. After the launch, Sven would take his team back to the forests of northwestern France, where a certain Resistance unit hiding near Normandy would meet its maker.

"We must have fallen far if we're not the best of the Phantom Pain anymore," Shams laughed. "Right, Sven?"

Sven glanced over at Shams and said nothing.

It was always the main gate that was most terrifying to sixteen-year-old Emily von Oldendorf, as she timidly approached the terrifying main door that terminated a long road, leading into the titanic complex of Heaven's Base. She brushed aside the long orange lock hanging down over the right side of her face—it fell back into its usual place, despite her trembling hands. She was a mere servant who was but one among an army that kept things orderly in the sprawling residence of Lord Djibril. She'd only seen the man himself once or twice, but that was enough to induce nightmares. He loomed over everything like Death itself, from the global politics that were way over her head to the daily household chores that were Emily's meager bread and butter.

Although she was only a servant, she had to pass through the elaborate security system of Heaven's Base. Shamefully showing to the guards the badges that marked her as a domestic servant, they waved her through the checkpoints—and, while subconsciously drawing her coat closer around herself, she could see in their eyes that some of those guards were thinking indecent thoughts about her. How low could her existence go? That would depend on how fast she could get back to the servants' quarters. After all, she had heard the stories of less-than-obedient girls being left in the dubious auspices of some of those salacious guards, and the glassy, soulless look in the eyes of those girls when—or if—they returned was a horror that spoke all for itself.

At a reasonable pace—and one always wanted to remain reasonable inside the iron walls of Heaven's Base, lest one draw the attention and the truncheons of the guards—it took nearly fifteen minutes to pass through the requisite checkpoints and reach the servants' quarters. Once she was there, she caught sight of the burly, glowering old woman who was in charge of her particular group of servants—and before she could run, the angry old spinster was upon her, fire in her eyes.

"Where have you been?" the old woman snapped. Emily shrank back in fright, her green eyes wide with fear. "The master has already arrived, and we had a fine job of cleaning the east wing up for him without you!" A thundering blow sent Emily staggering to the floor. "We're on a schedule here! If any one of us fails, all of us will be held accountable! Now wait in your room, and you'll get your punishment later!"

Emily crawled into her room without a word, knowing that speaking would probably just make it worse. She huddled on her bed, hers out of twenty-four bunk beds crammed into this room for the servants, and, sitting in the dark, wondered what her punishment would be.

Earth Alliance battleship Charlemagne, Heaven's Base, Iceland

"Our orders are to hunt down and destroy the Minerva," Ivan Danilov explained in the briefing room of the Charlemagne.

The ship was certainly built to destroy something. At over a kilometer long, with a crew of over 1,700, built like a seafaring naval battleship of bygone days with a terrifying black hull, it was clearly designed to overpower the fast and durable Minerva. Surely ZAFT's pride could not stand up to the Charlemagne's Requiem X2 main cannon, two Lohengrin positron cannons, four triple-barreled Gottfrieds, six double-barreled Gottfrieds, six Valiants, sixty missile launchers, sixty-eight Igelstellung emplacements, and forty gleaming new Dark Windams. Whole fleets would have trouble dealing with that kind of complement.

Danilov pointed to the map of the Atlantic Ocean on the briefing room's main screen, and faced his officers. "The Minerva has been preying on our shipping since December," he explained. "However, in the past couple of days they've disappeared. Our job is to find and destroy them." He tapped his baton against his hand. "Are there any questions?"

Silence reigned. Danilov dismissed his men and glanced at the image on the screen behind him, of the Minerva in battle against Alliance forces.

It seems awfully wasteful, he thought, to build one ship just to take down another.

He shrugged. No sense in wondering, and the Minerva had killed many Alliance soldiers, so, Danilov supposed, it was time for payback.

Silent and stealthy was Hakim's modus operandi, as he darted through the shadows of Heaven's Base. Security was tight, but no fortress was completely impregnable—and Hakim's stolen uniform of an Earth Alliance lieutenant helped as well. Nonetheless, he kept one hand in his coat pocket, firmly clutching the Glock 9mm hidden there in case anyone should try anything cute. Hakim knew that God would guide him and protect him, but it didn't hurt to have the Glock either.

He made a right around a corner and inspected his position from the safety of the shadows. It was near the quarters for the domestic servants, it appeared—security was minimal, probably because no one cared about the servants, and of the personnel at Heaven's Base, they were probably the easiest to replace. He noticed that it was starting to rain, and wondered if that would ground the fighter patrols and mobile suits. It was looking to be a heavy storm—the sky lit up with a flash of lightning, and rumbled ominously a few moments later. Eventually, given Iceland's climate, it would turn to snow—but hopefully not before Hakim could get in and do what had to be done.

He crept through the shadows, across the doors, and into an empty room. There was a computer terminal there—it looked like a guard's quarters. He locked the door behind him and set to work. From a computer inside the base, where few expected an intrusion, slithering his digital fingers into the base's archives was simple, and within moments he held in his hands a disk loaded with the data he sought. He glanced perfunctorily over the information—battle plans for an attack on the Carpentaria base in Australia, designs for that massive new battleship in the dry-dock, assorted odds and ends that the Alliance would sorely miss. Smiling at his handiwork, he pocketed the disk, took up his pistol, and slipped back out.

Immediately he found himself in the line of sight of two Alliance soldiers in the middle of the hallway. They turned towards him in surprise—Hakim scowled and let his Glock do the talking, firing two shots to kill them both within a second.

The alarm sounded; Hakim snarled under this breath and ducked into the shadows.

"Intruder!" the intercom shrieked. "Intruder detected in Sector 4! All personnel, Security Status 1!"

Sven leapt out of his seat in the officer's mess with the agility of a tiger, launching himself off the table and bounding to the door, with Mudie and Shams on his heels, over the heads of a number of stunned officers. Sven ducked out into the hall and flagged down a passing sergeant, racing by with his squad, assault rifles ready.

"Sergeant! What's going on?" Sven demanded.

"There's an intruder, sir!" the sergeant answered breathlessly. "In the domestic quarters!"

Sven glanced over his shoulder. "You two stand by in your mobile suits," he said to Mudie and Shams. "The intruder may try to steal a mobile suit."

"But if they're in the domestic quarters—" Shams protested.

"That's an order!" Sven barked. "Get moving!"

Shams heaved a sigh, glancing over at Mudie, and they went running down the hall towards the hangar. Sven turned his attention back to the sergeant, drawing his sidearm. "You, come with me," he said. "We'll find this intruder."

Emily lay back in her bunk, trying to put off the dread of whatever her punishment would be for being late. Hopefully it would only be temporary confinement or a beating, and nothing too hideous. But it would do her no good to dwell—she had dwelt on her impending fate before, and it had only made things worse. She sent her thoughts wandering off in a different direction.

It was a long way from Berlin, that was for sure.

She thought back to life in the townhouse of her father, Gerhardt, then an ambitious member of the Eurasian Federation's military research wing. She remembered her older sister, Viveka; boundless and full of energy, racing through the house with her cherry-red hair whipping behind her and driving their endless array of caretakers absolutely insane. She remembered the sad eyes of her mother, Lorelei, quiet and frail and often bedridden. She remembered the dozens of nurses and nannies and tutors that her father sent forth to take her mother's place. She remembered the mistresses of her father. She remembered the odious men, both military and civilian, that he frequently hosted.

And, of course, she remembered the day it all was taken away.

Emily looked up in surprise as she heard the alarms. An intruder, gunshots, what was going on?

An inkling of what was going on came when her door went bursting open, and a tall, dark figure stumbled in. The door slammed shut a moment later, and Emily felt her blood run cold as she heard the lock click.

The figure turned around, and Emily stared tremulously up at the sweaty, adrenaline-lined face of Hakim. He blinked in surprise for a moment, and then his face lit up in recognition.

"God is with me today after all," he chuckled. He fell silent as boots tramped by the door, but they faded into the distance a moment later, and he took a tentative step towards Emily. "You look afraid."

Emily said nothing, curled up on the floor in front of Hakim, shaking.

"My name is Hakim," he said. "I'm with the Resistance." At that Emily went white—but Hakim either did not notice or did not care, and seized her by her trembling arm, pulling her up. "Do you want to escape?"

"E-Escape?" Emily exclaimed. Hakim clapped a hand over her mouth, glaring. "I-I can't escape," Emily murmured, "they'll kill me!"

Hakim eyed her carefully for a moment, staring into her teary green eyes. He pulled her towards the back window and opened it with his gun hand, pushing it open and peering out. It opened into the shadows, and there didn't appear to be any troops. He glanced back at Emily—she stared him silently, horrified.

"Well, there are parties interested in you," he said. "And the people here would probably kill you anyway. So you're coming with me."

Before she could say anything, Hakim clapped a hand over her mouth again and vaulted through the window, landing with a crunch on the pavement outside.

"Why are you taking me?" Emily protested. "I'm just a servant! I'm not important!"

Hakim grinned behind his ragged beard. "I have a friend who would beg to differ," he said. "Now, be quiet. We're leaving."

He took off at a sprint through the back alleys, heading for the mobile suit hangars.

"The hangars?" the sergeant exclaimed as he struggled to keep up with Sven. Sven glanced over his shoulder; the sergeant looked up helplessly at him. "Sir, they caught sight of the intruder! He's heading towards the mobile suit hangars, and he's got a prisoner!"

"A prisoner?" Sven asked, stopping. "Who?"

"A servant, nobody important," the sergeant said. "He's heading for Hangar A3!"

"What the hell does he want with a servant...?" Sven growled. "Head him off, I'm going for the Noir!"

Gunshots rang out as Hakim rolled over his shoulder, with Emily in tow, between a pair of crates and ducked into the nearest mobile suit hangar. The mechanics inside barely had time to turn in surprise before Hakim opened fire, killing three of them with his opening volley. The rest fled, as guards poured inside. Hakim raced up a flight of stairs, dragging Emily behind him.

"What are you doing!" Emily cried. "They're going to kill us!"

"They'll kill me," Hakim shot back, "but so help me God, they won't lay a finger on you!" He stuffed the disk into Emily's coat pocket and shoved her headlong into the empty cockpit of a silent Jet Windam. "Launch that thing and get out of here!" He threw himself down onto the gantry and squeezed off shots at the Alliance soldiers below, using the metal surface to protect himself from their return fire. "Take off and head east, and meet with a man called Vermilion!"

"But I can't do this!" Emily protested. "I don't know what's going on!"

Hakim leapt to his feet and charged down the gantry, as a squad of soldiers reached the top of the stairs, and cut them down with an automatic spray of bullets. He fired back down below—desperate return shots bounced off the Windam's armor, and Emily shrieked in terror, putting her hands over her head. As she did, her elbow hit one of the switches, slamming the Windam's hatch shut—and a moment later, the Windam activated. Emily stared with wide eyes at the controls as the Windam came online, and saw the fighting outside, as Hakim emptied an assault rifle into the Alliance troops below.

There was a thundering crash next to Emily—the Windam to her left had activated as well, and was pointing its beam rifle at her.

"Come out with your hands up!" the pilot shouted over the loudspeaker. Emily went white in fear, edging away from the screen. She put her foot down on the pedal in the middle of the cockpit floor—the Windam lurched forward, smashing its way through the gantry. She pushed the right-hand pedal next—the Windam staggered away, towards the hangar entrance.

"It's moving! Clear out!" the soldiers cried, scrambling for cover. Hakim poured firepower into them and turned towards the second Windam. It leveled off its beam rifle at Emily—Hakim leapt off the railing, abandoning his rifle and ripping open his coat, to reveal a row of bombs strapped to his chest.

Emily watched in disbelief as he pulled something from his chest, holding it aloft as he sailed towards the Windam's cockpit.

A thundering blast sent Emily's Windam pitching forward—a strange sensation of something disappearing washed over her, and in panic, she pushed the controls forward and found the Windam stumbling out of the hangar and taking off into the air.

She glanced over her shoulder, at the rear-view screen, and saw the smoking crater left of the hangar.

With a blast of exhaust, the Strike Noir lunged into the air, followed by the Blu Duel and Verde Buster on sub-wing units. Sven scanned the skies for any sign of a Windam that had blown its way out of Hangar A3, and caught sight of something heading into the Denmark Strait.

"Is that where that little bitch went?" Shams grunted. "I thought it was just some maid or something! How the hell did she manage to do all this?"

"The infiltrator blew himself up in the hangar to buy this servant time to escape," Sven said flatly. "There must be something important about her."

"There'll be something dead about her soon enough," Mudie snapped. "She's just a servant."

Sven glanced down at the Strike Noir's screen. "The base computer was hacked just before the intruder was sighted," he said. "That Windam may be carrying vital information."

"So what?" Shams shot back. "If we kill her before she can tell anyone, then no harm is done!"

Sven narrowed his eyes as he caught sight of the Windam, up ahead in the distance, cruising forward. "We will attempt to capture the Windam and its pilot," he said. "If we cannot, then we will destroy it."

Denmark Strait, North Atlantic Ocean

Emily clutched her shoulders in terror as the Windam sped forward, skimming over the ocean's surface. Everything was running through her mind all at once, jumbling into a terrifying mess of fire and death, the same blazing fireball that Hakim had vanished into. She felt the disk inside her pocket, and only a few ounces of plastic and metal suddenly felt like lead. The cockpit was cold, but she couldn't find the strength to move.

Something in the cockpit began beeping—Emily started up in fright, eyes wide, and stared down at the screens. One of them was showing three dots moving close in towards the center of the display—Emily realized with a cold feeling of horror that there were Alliance units coming after her.

Across the way, inside the Strike Noir, Sven drew the Noir's beam pistols. "Take out the Striker pack first," he instructed. "It'll be helpless from there."

"Yeah, whatever," Shams snorted. "It's only a servant."

Emily seized the controls, survival instinct taking over. Green lines lanced out from the incoming mobile suits—Emily realized that they were beams, and yanked the controls to the right. The Windam banked to the side, the shots sailing by. Emily watched them go in disbelief.

"I...I dodged it...?"

Memories squirmed at the edge of her consciousness. Why did this feel familiar? Where had she done this before? She wracked her brain for the source of this feeling. She had never set foot inside a mobile suit before—so why did this seem so natural?

The Alliance mobile suits came closer—their faces were illuminated by a flash of lightning, and Emily felt her blood run cold as she saw the faces of not mere Windams, but the cold twin sensors of Gundams. She searched for the booster and tried to pick up speed, praying that she could outrun them, but more beams blocked her path and only instinct kept her from flying into them.

Up above, the Blu Duel leveled off both of its beam guns. Mudie scowled in annoyance.

"I thought she was just a servant," she snarled. "She must have a guardian angel."

The Verde Buster opened fire with its own rifles, but Emily pushed the controls forward desperately, and the Windam pitched down towards the water, the beams sailing by just inches over the Windam's head.

"Oh, for Christ's sake!" Shams snapped. "We don't have to take her seriously, do we?"

"Aim for the Striker pack," Sven insisted. He opened fire himself with his beam pistols, but again the Windam found a way to dodge the blasts, veering towards the left and taking off low over the water. Emily's heart raced as she searched for a way to speed up, jamming down the center pedal and lurching forward.

"I don't wanna die...!" she cried. "They're gonna kill me!"

"Real cute, bitch!" Shams yelled. The Verde Buster rocketed into the Windam's path—before Emily could even scream, the Verde Buster slammed the Windam's face with a devastating roundhouse kick. The Windam dropped into the water helplessly. "Gotcha!" Shams laughed, moving back and leveling off his left-hand rifle for a final attack—

And then a bright green beam came blazing out of the heavens, stabbing through Shams' rifle and blowing it apart. The Verde Buster staggered back, smoke pouring from its ruined cannon, and looked up into the air.

"What the hell is that?" Shams screamed.

Emily stared up in disbelief at her savior, and found herself staring into the eyes of another Gundam. It floated above the battlefield, a rifle drawn and pointed down towards the Verde Buster, with shimmering wings of light extending from its back.

"The Destiny?" Mudie exclaimed.

"How the hell did we miss that?" Sven growled. "Shams—"

Before Sven could speak another word, the Destiny Gundam lunged down towards the Verde Buster. Shams yelped in surprise, igniting the bayonet on his remaining gun, and brought it up towards the charging Destiny. But an instant later, a beam shield on the Destiny's hand flashed to life, batting the bayonet aside and slamming its right hand down on the Verde Buster's shoulder. Something flashed, and a moment later, the Verde Buster's shoulder exploded, sending the left arm flying into the ocean. Shams cursed as the Verde Buster rattled under the blast—and a moment later, a powerful follow-up palm cannon blast annihilated the Verde Buster's head, knocking it off its sub-wing and into the ocean.

"Shams!" Mudie shouted. "Get out of the way!" She sent a pair of beam blasts down towards the Destiny—it somersaulted aside, leaving a trail of afterimages shimmering in its wake. "What the—?"

"It has Mirage Colloid!" Sven shouted. "Get back!"

The Destiny darted up into the air, firing its long beam cannon down towards the Blu Duel. Mudie ducked to the side, pitching through the air and nearly losing her sub-wing unit in the process. The Destiny came roaring down, a huge anti-ship sword raised high. Mudie raised the Blu Duel's shield, but with a crash, the Destiny's sword went tearing through the Blu Duel's shield, snapping it in two. The Destiny brought the sword down through the Blu Duel's arm and leg, and ripped the sub-wing unit in two—and with a thunderous crash, delivered a devastating kick to the Blu Duel's face, sending it careening into the ocean.

The Destiny turned its cold green eyes on the Strike Noir. Sven glared in frustration at his shimmering foe, leveling off both his beam pistols and opening fire. The Destiny danced gracefully around Sven's shots, swinging its sword around horizontally—Sven sent the Noir pitching backward desperately. "He'd tear apart reinforcements," Sven grunted, ducking another sword blow and taking off along the water. "Dammit!"

The Strike Noir holstered its two pistols and dipped down towards the water, seizing the dismembered Blu Duel and Verde Buster and lifting off with a flash of exhaust.

The Destiny watched them go for a moment, hovering over the water, before returning its sword to the rack on its backpack and shutting down its beam wings. The terrifying Gundam turned towards Emily's Windam as it floundered in the sea and pulled it back into the air.

Emily stared up fearfully at her savior, as it regarded her with cold, soulless eyes for a moment. At last, a face appeared on the screen in front of her—that of a young man, framed with tussled black hair. Thin sunglasses obscured his eyes; a trio of jagged scars marred his left cheek. Emily felt her blood freeze as she realized that she was staring into the face of the man that Hakim had called Vermilion—a man whose face she knew by another, far more frightening name.

He studied Emily for a moment, before speaking in a calm and chillingly young voice.

"The man who was with you and put you in that mobile suit," he said. "Hakim. What happened to him?"

The explosion flashed before Emily's eyes again, as the words in a language she did not understand rang in her ears. "He...he died," she stammered. "I-I think he blew himself up..."

Vermilion's face twitched momentarily with a flicker of grief. It vanished an instant later. "I see," he answered.

Emily mustered up her courage. "...who are you?" she asked. "A-Are you...?"

Vermilion paused for a moment, and removed his sunglasses.

Emily's eyes went wide in terror, and with a scream, her hands flying over the Windam's controls, she sent her stolen machine rocketing away from the Destiny along the surface of the water.

Vermilion watched her go, narrowing his crimson eyes.

To be continued...