Full Summary: Set five years after Gundam SEED Destiny. With Lacus being the Chairman of the PLANTs and Cagalli ruling over the Orb Union, everyone thought that the battle between Naturals and Coordinators was finally over, yet the world seems to think otherwise. As battles raged on Earth and in Space, Kira Yamato will face his final fight, his destiny, as the one and only Ultimate Coordinator. Learning about his past and the road laid out in front of him, Kira struggles once again to protect the world. But the only hope he really had in making this a reality was with his old comrades and his old childhood friend, Athrun Zala.

PHASE ONE: Introduction

The shuttle landed safely. Lacus Clyne, Chairman of PLANTs, hurriedly disembarked from the shuttle, followed closely by the ZAFT military general, Yzak Joule. She was greeted instantly by a familiar face, the representative of the Orb Union, Cagalli Yula Attha and her Admiral, Athrun Zala. Athrun and Yzak both stopped in their tracks, saluting each other out of respect, though Athrun could just imagine Yzak silently snorting as he was sure the silver-haired had wanted to. Formalities won, however, and Yzak looked as smart as ever in his purple ZAFT uniform, a sign of being a ZAFT General. Athrun, too, looked handsome in his blue-and-white Orb uniform, the yellow band on the uniform signalling his position.

The shuttle had come from PLANTs. Lacus's face clearly showed her worry, and both Cagalli and Athrun could not blame her for it after what had happened. Cagalli's eyes portrayed pure anger at the songstress – it was only due to Orb being a neutral union that kept the representative from launching an attack on both Lacus and Yzak right there and then.

"There is a lot to discuss," Cagalli greeted them coolly, and Athrun could see Lacus visibly wincing at the icy tone. "Come on," Cagalli said, turning to lead them away.

Lacus pressed her lips together, saying nothing as she followed Cagalli. Athrun allowed them both to pass ahead, falling in step with his old friend, Yzak. He, too, did not know what to say to the silver-haired commander. For once, Yzak did not have any biting comments. Athrun realised that he seemed to be in deep thought; his eyes were fiery and troubled as if holding back an enormous amount of anger. There was something wrong.

"Yzak -"

"It's not as it looks," Yzak cut him off, ignoring all formalities as Athrun had done. "Ceh. If I find out who's behind all this, I'll..." he trailed off, his fists clenched so tightly and his face so tense that Athrun couldn't help but feel shocked. Weren't they the ones who started the war first?

They went into Cagalli's private study. Lacus sat down on the red sofa provided and Yzak moved to stand loyally by her side. Cagalli paid them no particular attention as she went to the intercom by her desk, telling the commanding officers nearby that under no circumstances whatsoever were they to be disturbed, or they would regret it. They were to be given full privacy and even if bullets went flying in the room, nobody was allowed to disturb. Cagalli ended the line before the shocked soldiers could even respond to her.

Once that was settled, Cagalli went towards the visitors, not even bothering to sit down. Athrun was already feeling somewhat nervous – Cagalli had a biting temper, and it seemed as if she would explode at any time now. The fact that the Orb representative was silent and unable to find the right curses to shout at Lacus and Yzak made it all worse. Even Lacus seemed timid, her mind racing as she wondered how to address the situation.

Athrun decided to break the silence. "How is Maius One and Two?" he asked, already knowing the answer.

Lacus seemed grateful for the easy opening to their to-be harsh discussion, but her eyes were dull with sadness as she turned her face away, unable to meet their eyes. "Destroyed. It was just like the attack on Junius Seven – nobody survived. The civilians..." she trailed off, her eyes clouding.

"And you think you didn't deserve it?" Cagalli asked scathingly.

Athrun winced. "Cagalli!" he reprimanded her, his hand grabbing her arm.

Cagalli pulled away. "We had five years of peace! Five years after fighting constantly, finally believing that this war between Coordinators and Naturals has finally ended! What happened? ZAFT is under your command, Lacus! Why did you attack the South African Union without warning? Thousands of people DIED!" she cried out angrily, only slightly grateful that Athrun had grabbed her again to restrain her. She could not control her temper, but even she knew that attacking the Chairman of ZAFT would put Orb in danger. "After attacking them like that, destroying the Botswana base, did you really think the Earth Alliance wouldn't fight back by destroying Maius One and Two?"

"Cagalli!" Lacus cried out, her voice pleading.

"It wasn't Lacus. It wasn't me, either," Yzak's voice was sharp as ice, silencing Cagalli and Lacus both. Athrun had rarely seen the peak of Yzak's anger, but he knew that now was one of the times he would. Yzak had a short temper, but only when he seemed to be under control that Athrun knew the other Coordinator to be at his most lethal.

Cagalli clenched her fists together, casting her eyes away. Deep down, she already knew it wasn't them who had issued the order to attack the South African Union. But it did not mean they weren't responsible for it, as the attack had clearly been made by ZAFT forces. She fell silent, allowing Lacus to explain herself.

"We don't know who ordered the attack," Lacus said quietly, bowing her head. "It never came from me, or Yzak. The ZAFT forces in Victoria were scheduled for a mock battle to test out new mobile suits, ensuring that there were no anomalies, but somehow, they managed to launch an attack at Botswana. The military network in Victoria had been hacked into – we don't know which mobile suits were responsible for the attack, or which soldiers had betrayed us," Lacus explained.

"What?" Athrun, shocked, released Cagalli's arm. "This wasn't a ZAFT attack?"

"It was a coup d'état," Yzak said, suddenly turning to punch the wall behind him. "Kuso! We didn't even see it coming!"

"We didn't have the time to inform the Earth Alliance. Barely an hour passed before Maius One and Two were destroyed by high-tech nuclear weapons," Lacus continued, her brows furrowed. "I managed to speak to the head of the Earth Alliance, Sirne Anfiel. He said that they did not issue the attack on Maius One and Two. Unless the EA had been planning to attack PLANTs all this time, I don't think it was possible that they could have counter-attacked so soon."

"Two coup d'états?" Athrun repeated incredulously. "But... why? Why now?"

"It seemed planned to me," Yzak said, his eyes narrowed. "The Earth Alliance claimed to have the same problem as we do – they didn't know which base was responsible for the attack."

"Impossible..." Cagalli slumped into a chair, burying her head in her hands. "Why... Why did this happen?" she muttered to herself, shaking her head again.

The intercom by Cagalli's desk suddenly beeped, and a shaky voice greeted them. "Cagalli-sama! Cagalli-sama!"

"Kuso! I thought my orders were clear!" Cagalli jumped up, her voice loud enough that they did not need an intercom to hear her.

"I'm sorry, Cagalli-sama! Our officers received something from the communications network. It's the Freedom!" the intercom continued hurriedly. "Freedom is engaged in battle!"

"WHAT?" Athrun shouted, running towards the desk and pressing the button of the intercom. "What's going on? Explain now!"

"Kira..." Lacus whispered, her eyes growing wide.

"I'm sorry! The communications network is receiving a live coverage of the Freedom in battle, but we don't know where the source is from. It's battling against mobile suits from ZAFT and the EA. It seems as though Freedom has been engaged in battle for ten hours now."

"Put it on the screen, now!" Athrun commanded.

"Ten hours?" Cagalli repeated, barely able to believe it. "But that's..."

"Just after Maius One and Two were destroyed," Lacus said, shaking her head. "Around four hours after the attack on the South African Union.

A large screen above the fireplace of the room flickered to life and the image of the Freedom battling against mobile suits were shown. It was plain that they were fighting on Earth, but no land was in sight. They were fighting above the ocean, the Freedom clearly heavily damaged. It was no surprise, of course, after being engaged in a ten-hour battle. Athrun could see that the Freedom's movements were very slow – even for an Ultimate Coordinator, a battle like that couldn't be won. Kira would be extremely exhausted by now, and that was an understatement.

There was an intake of breath – Lacus's. "Those mobile suits..."

"Those mobile suits are the latest developments from Maius!" Yzak burst out. Maius of PLANTs specialises in robotic engineering and applied mechanical engineering amongst others.

"And the Earth Alliance's mobile suits... Didn't they say that Botswana is also developing new-modelled mobile suits?" Cagalli continued quietly, shaking her head. "The South African Union is the latest nation to join the Earth Alliance. Botswana was immediately chosen as a base for developing new mobile suits. Despite the protests, Sirne Anfiel launched the base three years ago. He deliberately formed the base in the middle of the PLANTs territories, presumably to ensure the opposition that the EA are not developing anything beyond the treaty. But... what is Kira doing there?"

"Kuso!" Kira breathed heavily, his eyes beginning to blur considerably as he shook his head, disabling yet another mobile suit. As he had already predicted, he was caught right in a trap. But it was necessary, in order to protect Orb...

The mobile suits did nothing to hide their identities. The logos of both the Earth Alliance and ZAFT decorated them both, and they had been attacking constantly, their numbers never seeming to decrease. Nobody thought this would happen; it was well beyond anything that had happened before. Silently, Kira cursed himself for not being able to see it coming. Why was mankind capable of something like this? He desperately tried to push away Rau Le Crusset's words that had been spoken years before. It was not futile to try and save the world.

I can't go on much longer like this... Kira thought desperately as his second beam rifle exploded right in front of him, sending the Strike Freedom backwards due to the force of the explosion. What am I supposed to do?

It was not an easy battle for ZAFT and the EA, and they, too, were beginning to tire from the endless battle. But though their forces kept on switching, Kira was a lone fighter. He wondered why they hadn't destroyed him yet. Surely, one mobile suit against this many was an easy kill? Why did they allow him to live and fight for so long like this? A small, niggling voice at the back of Kira's mind tried to make sense of the situation – maybe they're not fighting to destroy him, but had another purpose? If so, what?

He took out his last weapon, the double beam sword, and rushed forwards, disabling one mobile suit after another. Even diving into the ocean would be a futile attempt, as there were mobile armours there just waiting to ambush him. It was impossible to run away. They were having fun taunting him. Kira breathed hard, sweat covering his face. A small mistake on his side allowed a ZAFT mobile suit to land a hard blow by the Freedom's side, and while the Gundam was thrown out of control, an EA mobile suit struck from above, cutting Freedom's right arm easily with its beam saber. The gravity pulled the Freedom towards the ocean, but just before it made contact with the water, Kira pushed the valve and the machine rose again. The alarms sounding in Freedom's cockpit were deafening as multiple warnings were issued. The legs of the Freedom had already been blasted away earlier, and it was only thanks to the hyper-deuterion nuclear reactor in the Strike Freedom that Kira could still move.

No... Not like this... Kira thought desperately as a mobile suit slammed him from behind, throwing him forwards. But he knew even before he entered the battle that this was the last for him. For Orb... Just to buy them some time. Athrun... protect Cagalli... protect Lacus... He had succeeded in destroying as many mobile suits as possible in the long battle. Another mobile suit fired and the last beam sword exploded, sending the ZGMF-X20A Strike Freedom towards the ocean again, this time front-first. If Kira pushed the valve, it would only thrust him into the ocean where the mobile armours were waiting to destroy him.

"Kira!" Cagalli shouted, knowing full well that her twin could never hear her from the room. The Freedom plunged into the ocean, sending a large display of water upwards. They all knew that there were mobile armours below – otherwise, the Freedom would have made its escape by now.

They watched in silence. The Freedom, now weaponless, had no chance of surviving the attack. Tears flowed down Lacus's cheeks as her heart pounded against her chest. Then, suddenly, the Freedom exploded from the water, heading at full thrust towards the sky. The force of the water shocked the mobile suits at first, but it was apparent that the Strike Freedom had nowhere to go. A couple of mobile suits were ready – one from ZAFT and another from the EA.

The EA mobile suit slammed its leg at full-force against the Freedom's cockpit, and as the Freedom flew out of control, a ZAFT mobile suit sliced the Gundam cleanly from the top with its beam sword. Cagalli, Lacus, Yzak and Athrun watched, horror-stricken, as the two halves of the Freedom fell towards the ocean again, exploding just before it could touch the water's surface in a loud, deafening bang.

Athrun fell to his hands and knees as Lacus jumped up, her eyes wet with tears. Cagalli took a few steps back while Yzak was rooted to the spot, unable to believe what his eyes had seen.

Athrun heaved a few deep breaths –the reality of the situation was too unreal for all of them.


Author's Note: I've been planning this fic for ages now. The situation throughout the five years between GSD and this fic will be explained in later chapters - I absolutely hated the way GSD ended. There will be romance, there will be action. The usual pairings will be Kira/Lacus, Cagalli/Athrun, Mu/Murrue, Shinn/Lunamaria and possibly Dearka/Miriallia - though I'm still unsure about that one. I'm trying to be as canonic as possible with this fic, so if I make any factual mistakes, please correct me! Anyway, I hope you liked the introduction! Please drop a review behind, at least so I know there's someone reading this!