Mobile Suit Gundam SEED ETERNITY

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 the sequel to "Mobile Suit Gundam SEED TWILIGHT." You will probably not know what's going on in here if you haven't read "TWILIGHT." You don't necessarily need to have read "Red Planet," although it does explain several events referenced in this story. Also, I will take this opportunity to announce right now that there will be no sequel after this. The story ends with "SEED ETERNITY."

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 was formed, but division and distrust mitigated its influence and it was destroyed in a climactic final battle with the Alliance.

However, forgotten during the years of civil war were the survivors of ZAFT and the Coordinator people, and they have now returned...

Phase 01 - Valentine

April 6th, CE 77 - ZAFT mobile space fortress Messiah, Lagrange Point 5

The sweet feeling of a world in fear washed over Messiah's control room, and once the cameras clicked off, Valentine Sunogachi lifted her head back and laughed. Short and laconic, her message announcing ZAFT's return had nonetheless thrown the entire Earth Sphere into terror—and if only they knew what she had planned for them. They were right to fear—and soon they would know why.

She seized the intercom as one of the deckhands changed the frequency for her. "Soldiers of ZAFT!" she cried. "We have waited and suffered for three years, fighting that miserable war against Vargas and his creatures, rebuilding our army, preparing for this day—and it has finally arrived! We have returned to the Earth Sphere, and the Naturals and traitors tremble before us! Our plan is foolproof; our armies are unstoppable; our cause is just! Now," she flung her arm out with a wild grin, "go out, and have some fun!"

"Yes ma'am!" answered thousands of ZAFT soldiers, and the black sky outside lit up as ZAFT warships activated their engines and moved out for the kill.

Valentine cast a grin across the room, at the figure standing off to the side. He smiled back, nodded almost imperceptibly, and took his leave. Yes, his troops had waited for this day as well—and now it was time to let out all that pent-up anger and pain.

The wreckage drifted placidly outside Messiah. Lagrange Point 5 was a fitting nest for ZAFT's reborn forces. Surrounded by the dense wreckage of their former homeland, the ZAFT troops would be well-protected against virtually anything the Alliance threw at them. Nuclear weapons would have to navigate the shoal zone; the Requiem cannon would have to crack through Messiah's beam shield, after it had proven strong enough to stand up to Emmanuel Vargas's mighty Beelzebub Array.

And of course, nestled in Messiah's main hangar was the yet-incomplete leviathan that would truly take from the Alliance the blood they owed. The ZAKU Goliath would introduce the Naturals to pain they never knew could be felt.

At her side, Admiral Vandread Harkill glanced nervously at the grinning marshal. "The NEO-GENESIS array and the Neutron Stampeder will put a hole in the shoal zone's defenses," he warned.

"We'll deal with that when the time comes," Valentine said with a wave. "After all, it's not like we'll be here forever."

April 7th, CE 77 - ZAFT Minerva-class battleship Fortuna

A deep shudder rippled through the hull and the deck of the Fortuna as it dropped out of its brace in Messiah's vast warship dock. It stood silent for a moment, and then the engines came to life with a roar. The blue-rimmed battleship nosed out of the dock and towards the hangar opening—and the dense, seething shoal zone, and beyond that, the Earth.

Standing tall on the Fortuna's bridge with arms crossed as his mighty flagship crossed the shoal zone and edged out into open space, Kira Yamato surveyed it all with mismatched eyes. His first mission was quite simply to attack and destroy a space colony or a civilian convoy or whatever other innocent target presented itself—just to do it.

Of course, the real reason wasn't "just to do it." Kira knew that well. Such meaningless malice was not the forte of his lovely marshal. The point, of course, was to make sure that the Alliance and its citizens had something to fear. Fear was important, and without fear the rest of the plan would not work. But Kira Yamato and his soldiers could provide fear.

He glanced down at Lyle, the Fortuna's faithful captain. "First target of opportunity looks like it'll be a civilian Marseille III-class freighter," Lyle reported. "IFF has it as part of the Junk Guild. Are they off-limits?"

Kira looked back at the screen, and the yellow and black hexagonal logo of the Junk Guild. He would have to be strong; as strong as he had been at Austral, or at Deimos. Strength and a heart of steel would be necessary now. On him depended the future of his people. He would have to be strong, for the Coordinators, for Valentine...and for her.

"No one is off-limits. Prepare to fire."

And so the war began.

"Well, well, well," chuckled Kara Guinness, floating by the railing of the Fortuna's interior observation deck. The green shimmering beams of the Fortuna's Tristan cannons lanced out and speared the floundering Marseille III freighter through the midsection, and the ship snapped in two amid a thundering firestorm. "First blood is ours, boys."

Standing behind her, Juarez Recardo watched without emotion on his face, and Gary Talon witnessed it all with something akin to disdain. "If you want to call an unarmed freighter 'first blood,'" Gary snorted. "Call me when we're attacking something that can shoot back."

Kara nodded towards the Junk Guild ship's smoldering wreckage. "Do that a few more times and we'll have something that shoots back on our hands." She grinned. "Yeah, let 'em come at us. We can take 'em. We can take 'em all."

Arms crossed, Juarez watched the wreckage with something unpleasant stirring in his throat. A few hours back in the Earth Sphere and they were already committing war crimes. But this, he reminded himself, was the plan; to terrify and distract the Alliance with atrocities like this, while reducing their population, crippling their military and economy, and making sure that the Earth Alliance and Blue Cosmos could never threaten the Coordinator people ever again.

After all, this was what Lord Djibril had done three years ago with his Requiem. He had simply been just inept enough to leave some Coordinators alive, enough to build a new army at Mars and return and bring Armageddon with them. And ZAFT wasn't even out to eradicate the Naturals entirely; they would just kill enough to secure the Coordinators' existence.

So, as the Junk Guild ship's wreckage drifted apart and the Fortuna arced away from the wreck in search of its next prey, why did it feel so wrong?

Heaven's Base, Iceland

"Admiral Mathis, I don't care what it takes! Organize your fleet and attack Lagrange Point 5 at once! The Requiem will back you up if need be, we will send Destroy units if we must, we will fling nuclear warheads until not a single atom remains at L5, but we will not let ZAFT stay there! Do you understand?"

On the screen, the bald and goateed Vice Admiral Kevin Mathis tried to look apologetic. "Sir, it's going to take some time to recall my forces and join Admiral Stone." He shook his head. "Besides, sir, the ZAFT forces are starting to disperse. There's a skeleton guard left to protect that fortress at L5, but the bulk of their fleet has begun to move out, and they're breaking into small units."

"All the better to crush them, then!" Djibril snarled. "Admiral, I order you to get your forces moving and start hunting down and destroying those ZAFT units," he scowled, "before they have a chance to do anything."

Djibril did not bother returning Mathis's salute as the screen went dark, and instead whirled around on the Heaven's Base commandant. "I want updates every hour at least. I want to know everything that goes on at L5. I want to know where every ZAFT unit is. I will not let them get a foothold here. Once you have Arzachel contacted, order them to assemble a fleet to crush these exiled Coordinators once and for all."

"Y-Yes sir," the commandant answered, and set to work.

Fury bubbling in his veins, Djibril turned back towards the Heaven's Base control room's main screen, where a camera feed was fixed on Messiah, floating serenely amid the debris. They were waiting, and he knew deep down that ZAFT had something terrifying waiting there for him. He had lost contact with Vargas months ago and could only assume that Vargas and the MLA had been destroyed—so, so much for that little investment. It had only bought him a couple of years, just barely enough to crush the Resistance—on Earth.

A new prospect, that of the Resistance in space joining with ZAFT, assaulted the back of his mind. He forced it down. The Alliance Space Force would take care of this, as he had been grooming them for three years to do. The Coordinators would die. And the world would be blue and clean once more.

April 8th, CE 77 - Yokosuka Naval Installation, Japan, Republic of East Asia

This, Ivan Danilov knew in the pit of his stomach, was the war he had been waiting for.

ZAFT had returned. Their fortress had nestled itself in the shoal zone of L5, where the PLANTs once stood, now protected by the wreckage of their former home. The ZAFT fleet had begun to spread out in small, mobile units. Already reports were coming in of ZAFT attacks—on civilian targets, isolated military targets, whatever passed through their crosshairs first.

Standing on the Charlemagne's bridge, Danilov put a hand to his chin in troubled thought. Attacking military targets was one thing, but civilians? Was this just out of malice? Were ZAFT's soldiers so bent on seeking revenge that they would target innocents? The cold-hearted military strategist in him wished that it were so, because if all ZAFT wanted was blood, they would be easier to destroy. Soldiers with no other cause than murder were the easiest to defeat, because every battle gave them what they wanted, and that made them sloppy.

But of course that wasn't what ZAFT wanted. It couldn't be. They wouldn't have spent three years in exile at Mars rebuilding their army to just come back and murder. There was more to this, he knew.

The auxiliary screen flicked on and Danilov perfunctorily saluted the grim figure of Marshal Markav.

"Captain Danilov," she said, "I will skip the pleasantries. You are being redeployed to space, and your ship's new mission will be to engage ZAFT forces until told otherwise. Continue to engage the Minerva if the opportunity arises, but your primary target will now be ZAFT. Understood?"

"Yes ma'am," Danilov answered. "Do we know what it is they want yet?"

"Intel has taken a few guesses, but so far we can only assume," she replied with a shrug. "Their fleet is splitting up into small units of a few ships. The Charlemagne should have much to do hunting them down and eliminating them."

"We won't disappoint."

Crayt fixed him with a skeptical look for a moment. "See that you don't. Markav, out."

As the screen went dark, Danilov turned towards the rest of the bridge and glanced over at Vera. "Begin the pressure checks and expedite our resupply and repairs. We will set course for Taiwan and use the Kaohsiung mass driver."

As his crew set to work, Danilov turned his eyes back towards the sky. ZAFT was out there, and ZAFT was his real enemy—so perhaps this would be the end of all that damned ambiguity.

Grey Saiba looked up in annoyance at the rushing sound of the quiet crew lounge's door sliding open. Bad enough that he and Merau both had nearly been killed by that stupid Zamzazar crew at Carpentaria, and Merau was still in sickbay over it; now he couldn't even have a cup of coffee in peace.

Instead of finding the sneering officer he expected, however, he came face to face with a black-haired girl whose collar tabs on her black Phantom Pain uniform indicated that her rank was the same as his. She adjusted the duffel bag over her shoulder and stuck her hand out with a smile.

"You must be Ensign Saiba," she said, as Grey nervously shook her hand. "I've heard a lot about you."

"Good things, I hope?" asked Grey.

She shrugged. "I've heard that you're one of the pilots that the Angel of Death can't seem to kill. Whether that's good or bad is up to you."

"I'll take what I can get. And you are...?"

"Erin Gedelberg. New pilot on the Charlemagne." She offered a reassuring smile—although Grey decidedly did not feel reassured. "Oh, I've got some good news for you, too. You and Ensign Seraux were selected for a couple of new machines."

At that, Grey perked up. "We were?"

"You were." She motioned for him to follow, and soon enough they both arrived at the hangar and stepped onto the mobile suit deck.

Grey looked up into the eyes of five new mobile suits with the faces of Gundams. A Strike unit with huge thrusters on its shoulders, a Buster unit with some rearranged weapons, a Duel with a much smaller Assault Shroud system, a Blitz with two huge claws on its back, and a ZAFT unit with an ungainly series of weapons. He recognized them after a moment's thought.

"The Luna Project machines? Here?"

"Arzachel shipped them to Yokosuka for Typhoon, but didn't make it in time for the operation," Erin explained, with a hint of something Grey didn't quite like in her eyes. "The Regen Duel is yours. The Gale Strike is mine." She grinned back. "Impressed?"

Grey looked back up at the Regen Duel, and thought of the Angel of Death.

Aren't you in for a surprise...

It lay in ruins.

Yes, it was beyond salvation. Sven Cal Bayan stared down from the gantry at the wreckage of his faithful Strike Noir. The Destiny Gundam had dealt enough damage that trying to repair it was pointless. But that would not be a problem for long. No, as he glanced down at his tablet, he knew that this was a blessing in disguise.

The Crusader Gundam. Currently under final testing and fittings at Daedalus Crater, but once the Charlemagne arrived in space, it would meet up with an Alliance ship that would bring the Crusader with it. The Strike Noir had always been a step or two behind the Destiny in performance, and only Sven's own skill had made up the deficit—enough to keep the Noir in one piece, more or less, but never enough to best the shimmering wings of light. Now it would change. Now he would have his own wings of light, now he would fight the Resistance's champion on equal terms, and the engineers even guessed that the Crusader—with cutting-edge avionics and a revamped control system—could even outmatch the Destiny on specs alone. His hands itched to take its controls and at long last avenge his many defeats. The Resistance would fear his mighty Crusader, and so would ZAFT.

He glanced down the hangar, where Shams and Mudie were surveying the ruins of their own machines. They too would get new weapons from Daedalus Crater. The transforming Vanguard and the nimble Artemis would come with the Crusader and stand at its side—but he would need no one, once he had that Gundam.

Yes, the time had come to fulfill his mission. He shoved down the voice of his younger self before it could speak. He would fulfill his mission—even if he had to destroy the stars themselves.

April 9th, CE 77 - Battleship Minerva, orbit of Earth

Meyrin Hawke had almost forgotten what a pain in the ass zero-gravity was.

She refastened the restraint on the captain's char with a sigh and glanced up through the bridge windows, at the vast inky tableau of outer space. It had taken so much blood and effort to get up here. A Compton-class landship with the Resistance had escorted the Minerva part of the way to Woomera and protected it from Alliance Siegfried planes as the winged battleship attached its space booster, set up its positronic interference cloud, and rocketed into space. They had ultimately been forced to ditch the booster once they hit the exosphere, but by then the Minerva's own thrusters were sufficient to carry it into orbit. And the landship below...well, they had died on their own terms.

Copland and Chiao Xu's orders came through shortly after that. The Minerva was to seek out the Vedlow Fleet. That was all well and good, she supposed; Aoma Vedlow was one of the few figures in the Resistance as feared and respected as the Minerva. Vedlow had singlehandedly reshaped the Resistance in space into a respectable fighting force...although that had also wound up shaping the Alliance Space Force into an equally respectable fighting force. Funny how that worked out.

"The Vedlow Fleet says they're—oh, goddammit," Roxy muttered; as she turned in her chair, she nearly floated out of it, and jabbed her foot under the comm console to stop herself. "This is gonna take some getting used to."

"As graceful as a seagull," Abbey shot back with a little too proud a smirk. "You were saying, Miss Bannon?"

Roxy scowled back. "The Vedlow Fleet is sending a ship. They'll call us, don't call them, now if you'll kindly let me buckle the fuck up..."

Meyrin waved it off. "Burt, keep an eye out. We're probably going to attract an Alliance patrol too, but we'll just have to let whoever comes at us take the first shot."

She glanced to the side, towards Lagrange Point 5. ZAFT was there; home was there; and that was something she was not ready to face yet.

"Welcome back, little Kira," chuckled Rau Le Creuset, floating on the interior observation deck and staring towards L5. "And Valentine, my, how you've grown. I can feel the fingers of madness working at your mind all the way from here."

He gleefully regarded their presences for a moment. Valentine was slowly being consumed by madness, and that was hilariously ironic, but he could certainly see why. The space around her—the space filled with her little army—was seething with anger, frustration, sorrow, regret, and pain. She had been stewing in that for three years. If the reports were accurate, her forces were now fanning out across the Earth Sphere and targeting Alliance and civilian alike. But surely there was more to her plan than just bloodshed. Rau had not trained her like that.

And then there was Kira. He too had stewed in that paroxysm of rage and heartbreak, but his presence had a different contour to it. Yes, Kira Yamato had swathed himself in coldness, ruthlessness, and determination—to hide the pulsing core of sorrow, of pain, of regret, of horror at what he had done and was about to do. Rau did not know what had happened at Mars, but there Kira Yamato had forged himself anew, into Valentine's gleaming sword to change the world.

But, Rau mused, as he turned his thoughts towards the Minerva and that one special pulsing life within its hull, he had a sword of his own now. She just needed some sharpening.

This was going to take some serious getting used to.

Athrun Zala watched with a touch of sympathy and more amusement than was really necessary as Viveka floundered after the pull-bar in zero gravity. Moving in a weightless environment was second nature to him—one learned to navigate zero-g environments almost at the same time one learned to walk when one lived on a space colony—but poor Viveka had not spent much time in space. Well, she would learn. She had already crashed into a bulkhead, so she would better learn.

"I'm gonna kick your ass if you're laughing at me," she snarled.

"Wouldn't dream of it," Athrun lied, and took her by the shoulder to guide her back towards the wall. "Maneuvering yourself in zero-g is more art than science anyway."

Viveka finally latched onto the pull-bar. "I've heard that before," she growled, and with Athrun in tow she took off down the corridor. "So I've been a ground-pounder all this time. Mind filling me in on the Vedlow Fleet?"

Athrun merely shrugged. "Not much to tell. They're run by an ex-ZAFT pilot—"

"Oh, dammit, there had better not be any grudges."

"There's one, but she has it under control. Vedlow's outfit is probably one of the best things the Resistance has going for it. She's made the Resistance in space a force worth taking seriously."

Viveka snorted disgustedly. "That makes me feel better."

Athrun held back a sigh. It was hard to feel better after the defeat at Carpentaria—and calling it a defeat was charitable. He'd had that foreboding feeling of impending defeat ever since hearing about Chiao Xu's master plan to end the war, but to think it would end so badly...it was almost impossible to believe. The Alliance had gathered such a massive force and brought down the hammer so swiftly and completely. Even the Requiem had burned and melted away the Resistance's lines. The survivors had fled and now whoever was left was taking stock and preparing to continue the war...

But, he mused as he instinctively turned towards the direction of L5, there was something else in the mix too. And although he could not sense it, he could nevertheless feel his heart darken and his blood chill at the thought of his old friend.

"Grudges or not," he said quietly, "pretty soon I suspect we'll be heading for ZAFT."

Viveka arched an eyebrow. "Why?"

"They have forces and they brought a fleet with them. They're the Alliance's enemy. It's a strategic opportunity that the Resistance's leadership can't afford to pass up."

"Well then," Viveka said, and stopped the pull-bar, "you haven't heard what happened to the Feynman."

"The what?"

"Junk Guild ship. Marseille III, clearly marked, totally neutral. But," her eye narrowed, "a ZAFT unit blew it away. Just like that." Athrun felt his heart drop. "There's unconfirmed reports all over the Earth Sphere of ZAFT units destroying civilian targets. Freighters, transports, agriculture satellites, you name it."

Athrun turned his eyes back towards L5 again.

Kira...what are you doing?

"Out of one clusterfuck and into another," sighed Sting Oakley, drifting before his silent Chaos Gundam in the Minerva's hangar. "Except this is twice the fun and twice the clusterfuck."

Auel Neider cast a contemptuous glance over his shoulder. "Motherfuckers sure know how to make an entrance, anyway."

"Yeah, well, better get used to that." He nodded towards the Chaos and Abyss. "Something tells me we're gonna be trading fire with ZAFT as much as we do with the Alliance."

"I know they're shooting at civilians," Auel said, "but why would we care about that now? It hasn't stopped us from working with douchebags before."

"These aren't any douchebags. They're ZAFT. They've got technology and firepower that makes us look like kids."

Auel snorted in disgust. "Big fuckin' deal. We've got Terminal, and Terminal's got geniuses on it. Aren't they making a new mobile suit, like, right now or something?"

"Something like that. Some high-performance thing. But the rest of us might get some real fucking upgrades, so..."

Sting trailed off, and the two Extended glanced down awkwardly back at their two Gundams. Carpentaria had changed the tide of the war, and ZAFT's return had scrambled everyone's calculations, so Terminal would have to make things different...or things would never be set right.

Stella was scared.

That was the clearest emotion Shinn could pick up from her, standing by her side in their shared bunk. She was scared. And, he supposed, rightfully so. ZAFT had been reported attacking civilian targets. They had built up their fleet to more or less the same size as it was at the outset of the Battle of Solomon's Sword. It had brought space traffic to a standstill, it had effortlessly taken control of Lagrange Point 5, and preliminary Alliance attacks on the shoal zone had all been turned back by Messiah and its skeleton guard.

And, somewhere out there, Shinn could feel the pulsing, gleaming presence of Kira Yamato.

Shinn's blood boiled at the thought. He had changed. His presence felt almost armored, a dark, ruthless determination shielding a throbbing inner pain. His time at Mars had toughened him somehow, made him stronger, and now he had returned to the Earth Sphere with some evil intent. But surely he and Sunogachi and their soldiers weren't content to just slaughter civilians and piecemeal Alliance units. Not after the Requiem, not after their exile, not after all they must have been through. There had to be more to this.

"Shinn," Stella began, her eyes shimmering with fear, "what's gonna happen?"

He pushed the anger and fear out of his mind, hoping to give her a clear answer. The Minerva would meet with the Vedlow Fleet and begin laying plans for a retaliatory attack. The target was unknown; Shinn's first impulse was Althea Crater, in an effort to remind the world of the Alliance's Extended program and all its horrors. Copland hoped to drive a wedge between the Atlantic Federation and Eurasian Federation, and possibly pick up the Republic of East Asia in the crossfire.

But Chiao Xu...he was already dispatching agents to set up a meeting with the new ZAFT Marshal. He was already trying to bring ZAFT into the fold. Perhaps he would change his mind after hearing about those reports of attacks on civilians...or perhaps he wouldn't.

He looked up and felt his blood boil again. Kira Yamato was still out there. The man who had killed his family, his friends, Kika...now he was out there, doing that to millions of other people. And how many of them would have the twists of fate and circumstance that would give them Newtype powers and hand them powerful mobile weapons with which to exact revenge?

Shinn furrowed his brow. It was no longer his own war.

Emily von Oldendorf remembered bits and pieces of ZAFT and the Valentine and Junius Wars, although truthfully, both wars had always been fairly far away. ZAFT had taken land on the Earth, even at Gibraltar, while she still lived in Europe during the Valentine War...but they remained far away, and once she was moved to Lord Djibril's residence in the Atlantic Federation, they were that much farther. And then she was sent to Heaven's Base in Iceland, and the arms of the Junius War never reached the Earth Alliance's icy citadel. ZAFT was something frightening to watch on the news, perhaps, but they were always just there—on the news.

Of course, she thought bitterly, they were also her enemy, which she was trained to destroy just as surely as she was trained to destroy the armies of other nations on Earth. That was much foggier, because the memories of her training had not fully returned...although by now she could no longer deny that they were there.

She couldn't quite blame them for coming back with war on the mind, although like most residents of the Earth Sphere, the Requiem blast that destroyed the PLANTs had been a shocking but otherwise forgettable event. Not so for the Coordinators. That was their home Lord Djibril had vaporized.

Emily closed her eyes and thought of what they would do. They were attacking civilian targets; that meant the Minerva, if no one else in the Resistance, would fight against them. The Minerva's captain and crew followed their own moral compass.

And as for herself...well, she was the Minerva's Angel of Death. She had her sister. She had her friends. They needed her—needed her power.

That's right, she thought. My power.

April 10th, CE 77 - Resistance Nazca-class destroyer Star One, orbit of Earth

"So. There it is."

The words hung like a toxic cloud in the captain's office of the Star One. Kicked back in the chair with her feet propped up on the desk sat stony-faced Aoma Vedlow, with the imposing air of a woman whose patience was on edge.

The bearded man at her side, swathed in an old Earth Alliance uniform and service overcoat, shrugged indifferently. "They are on our side, Aoma."

"Tell that to Argus."

"Argus was stupid and shot at their backs. We're not going to do that, because as angry as you are, you're not stupid."

Aoma laughed, a cold, harsh noise filling the air. "That's why I keep you around, Ali." She motioned disdainfully towards the screen on her computer terminal, linked to the Star One's external cameras and showing the Minerva on approach to her vessel. "I suppose the practical thing to do would be to get over it."

Ali arched an eyebrow. "Emotions don't mix with practicality."

"Yeah, but in our line of work emotions will probably just get you killed." Her eyes darkened. "Like they got him killed."

"Forgiven or not, we're going to have to work with them even more now that the planetary Resistance has been incapacitated," Ali warned. "Particularly on some major upcoming operation. You know Copland wants us to lead a retaliation for Carpentaria, and we still have to figure out how to deal with ZAFT too." He paused, choosing his words. "And they probably won't take you back."

"No," she agreed. "They probably don't need me. And if those reports about the Feynman and the others are right, they may not really be on our side anyway." She glanced at the Minerva's image again. "Well. I'm not about to go pulling an Argus on you, if that's any comfort."

"It will suffice," Ali said with a smirk.

Aoma narrowed her eyes at the Minerva's image.

But don't think I've forgotten, Shinn Asuka...

To be continued...