PHASE 22: Angel Down
Aprilius One, PLANT.
The twelve men and women who made up the PLANT Supreme Council sat around the great circular table that was their customary meeting place. Some were muttering among themselves, and many glanced at the impassive face of Gilbert Durendal, the Council Chairman. Notable among these were Ezalia Joule of the National Defense Committee and Eileen Canaver of the Diplomatic Committee.
Finally, Durendal stood, and the muttering ceased.
"I do apologize for the commotion I have caused. However, the broadcast made my intentions clear, and I do plan to follow through with them." He began, glancing from one face to the other. Canaver looked suspicious. Many others concerned or irritated. Ezalia Joule alone kept her face an expressionless mask, concealing her apprehensions.
"I would like you to reflect upon the words of hope I voiced when we decided to go to war to defend ourselves. We must ensure that the reason we once again take up arms is to bring an end to all battles."
There was renewed muttering around the room, and Durendal waited a few moments before continuing. "Our true enemy is neither the Alliance, nor the Naturals; it is Logos, and we must once and for all escape the system of never-ending war that they have created. Unless we do, all of this will happen again."
- "I concur." came the reply from Louise Leitner. "But that is easier said than done."
- "That may be so," Durendal replied, "but it is the only avenue open to us. Otherwise, this war will never end."
- "The Chairman has my approval." Ezalia spoke next, her expression still neutral, her tone firm. "This time, let us put an end to this war, permanently."
Other members of the Supreme Council soon followed; eventually, even Canaver consented.
- "I thank you all." Durendal said, nodding. Though his expression was impassive, inwardly Durendal smiled. His goal was now one step closer to fruition.
After the fall of the Destroy, the Archangel had left Hamburg, retreating to a position further away where they would be able to hide and regroup until an opportunity to return north towards the Kingdom of Scandinavia.
At the moment, Murre was had several issues that were pressing on her mind, but one in particular was what they should do now. And as she stood on the bridge, it was this issue that she was discussing with Kira, Andrew, and several others.
It was Kira who finally voiced a sentiment that she herself had also been feeling.
"Miss Murrue." Kira said. "We should go back."
- "Go back? You mean, to Orb." She asked, looking at him.
- "Yes." he assented. "I have a feeling...that something big is about to happen; unlike anything we've ever seen before. And I think we have to go back."
- "Right." she nodded. "I agree as well."
Andrew likewise indicated his agreement, and before long, launch preparations were complete, and the Archangel took flight, remaining at low altitude as it wended its way up towards the coast, heading northwest.
However, despite their hopes their departure was not unmarked.
A ZAFT AWACS-DINN was in the air, and the moment the Archangel was on the move its long-range detection equipment picked up the ship's distinctive thermal signature and relayed it to its mothership - the Lesseps-class land battleship Uhlenbeck, commanded by a veteran of the Bloody Valentine War called Willard.
Like the ships of the Gardner and Lyman Teams, the Uhlenbeck was one of what was unofficially called the "Type-II" Lesseps-class developed after the Bloody Valentine War. Unlike the original, these ships were retrofitted with heavy caterpillar-treads to allow movement over denser terrain than was efficiently possible with a scale system. The trade-off was the sacrifice of the ship's naval capabilities. Currently, the tread-equipped Lesseps Type-II accounted for roughly 40% the total number of ships of the class in ZAFT service. A pair of GaZuOOTs stood on its upper decks.
On the ship's bridge, the communications officer suddenly spoke.
"Message from AWACS 006; unknown contact detected, Section 3, point 1-8-3-6."
- "Check thermal pattern for a match." Commander Willard ordered.
- "Checking now, sir. thermal pattern matches the sample we were given, sir. It's the Archangel!"
- "Update the database - that ship is not an unknown, it is an enemy. Contact Headquarters immediately."
- "Yes, sir!"
- "I knew they'd make a move." Willard muttered to himself. He was glad they had revealed themselves and made their move, and he looked forward to his part in what was coming next...
"Message from Fleet Headquarters sir!" Abby announced on the Minerva's bridge. In the wake of Durendal's announcement, activity onboard the ship had redoubled in intensity as emergency external repairs and resupply continued in preparation for the return trip to Gibraltar.
At the moment, it was Arthur who had the conn, and he stepped forward to her console to read the message.
"Minerva is ordered to provide support in Operation Angel Down, commencing immediately." he read. "And a set of coordinates...what is this?" He asked. "Relay it to the Captain in his quarters." He ordered, and she complied.
In his quarters, the beeping of his personal terminal woke Yzak, who had been dozing in his bunk, his jacket draped carelessly over the back of the chair behind his desk. He read the message, and as he did so, he imagined he could almost feel a twinge in his old scar. His lips turned upwards in a satisfied smirk, and he grabbed for his jacket, putting it on before he headed up to the bridge.
"I have the conn." He announced. "What's our status?"
- "External repairs were completed six hours ago, sir." Arthur reported. "We are still expecting additional supplies, but..."
- "They'll have to wait. Notify the Port authority. The Minerva is heading out. Arthur, you have the coordinates we are headed for; as soon as we're out, take us to Condition Yellow and plot a course."
Meanwhile, Willard marshaled his forces, preparing for the attack and, when the time came, he deployed his forces, BuCUEs and GOUF Igniteds, which launched and immediately attacked the Archangel.
As soon as the attack began, Kira left the bridge, heading to the hangar to launch in the Freedom. Nor was he the only one. Juri Wu Nien immediately headed down to the hangar as well.
She was making for the Buster, as usual, but she turned instead to a different machine in the hangar, opting for it instead. Soon, both machines were out of the hangar.
As Kira took up a position above and behind the Archangel, he felt himself enter that state of enhanced awareness that he so often experienced in battle; he was determined that the Archangel make it to the coast.
On the bridge, Murrue was focusing on keeping her ship moving and staving off the enemy mobile suits' attacks. The ship's 75mm CIWS came to life with a sound like a dozen buzzsaws, filling the air with shells that intercepted the incoming missiles fired by the BuCUEs racing along the ground below.
"Ten to port; keep us in the shadow of the plateau!" Murrue ordered, and Neumann, at the helm, complied, turning the ship. "Counterattack with the Valiants!"
As the ship turned, its enormous 110cm linear cannons fired into the formation of BuCUEs, the shots carefully targeted so as to not strike the enemy machines directly - a fruitless effort, as the speedy and agile BuCUEs anticipated and dodged the attack easily. Above the ship's rear deck, the Aile Strike, armed with a bazooka, added its own fire to the barrage, careful to steer clear of the line of fire of the ship's own weapons.
Above, Kira moved in on a pair of GOUF Igniteds, severing their arms and depriving them of their beam rifles, before taking off their heads with a pair of snap shots from his own rifle. Still more GOUF Igniteds attacked, forcing him to retreat.
Far above and behind the battle, the AWACS DINN continued relaying footage of the battle to the Uhlenbeck, where Willard watched the battle unfold. Then he ordered the ship's big dual cannons to fire on the Archangel, and several shots impacted the ship. Below, the enemy mobile suits continued their onslaught, firing another barrage of missiles. Firing from almost directly below the ship, more of them were able to slip past the vessel's CIWS, impacting the underside of its hull.
Yet for all that, the ship continued to move.
They had to get to the coast; if they could get to the coast, they were home free, as the ZAFT ships would not be able to pursue them underwater.
"Damn..." Kira swore as he saw the pounding the ship was continuing to take. He deployed the Freedom's "Xiphias" railguns and fired at the attacking BuCUEs, while at the same time Juri countered with the Strike's bazooka.
The BuCUEs fell back, the attacks hitting the ground in front of the retreating mobile suits.
"Will someone tell me what's going on here? Why is ZAFT suddenly targeting us?" Murrue asked.
- "Not really relevant right now. At this rate, they're going to surround us any second now." Andrew Waltfeld reported from the CIC. "Eight BuCUEs coming in from 3 o'clock, nine GOUFs from 10 o'clock."
The screen suddenly lit up as new contacts appeared - the enemy mobile suits were firing.
- "Incoming missiles!"
- "Evade them!" Murrue ordered. The ship's CIWS activated, and from his position, Kira engaged the Freedom's targeting systems and fired a full burst from all the Freedom's weapons, intercepting the missiles' trajectory. Every last projectile was destroyed, and he turned his rifle on the BuCUEs, carefully targeting the mobile suits' legs.
When the GOUF Igniteds closed in, he evaded their attack, while below Juri in the Strike fired the last of its bazooka rounds. The GOUFs easily evaded the slow-moving shells, and Juri discarded the weapon. However, Kira took advantage of the opening, shooting the arms off the attacking mobile suits, depriving them of their weapons.
"Target has advanced ten to the northwest. All GOUF Igniteds damaged, they're returning." The CIC onboard the Uhlenbeck reported.
- "No wonder the Freedom and the Archangel are so highly spoken of." Willard commented. "Tell our mobile suit teams not to be overly reckless - otherwise, we won't last until the Minerva gets here."
- "Sir, because we're playing it safe and trying to box it in, we're the ones getting cornered here!" His XO commented. He was a younger man - too young. "I say forget the Minerva and let's just attack with everything!"
- "You have no idea what happened at Alaska and Jachin Due, do you?" He asked.
- "It would be a critical mistake on our part if we moved too hastily and it got away as a result." Willard said. "In accordance with our orders, we'll let the Minerva approach them, and have our ace pilot take care of it from there." There was a hint of disdain in Willard's tone as he spoke.
Onboard the Minerva, which at that very moment was en route, the mood was tense. The details of Operation Angel Down had been relayed to Yzak, who had then summoned Shinn, Athrun, and Heine to the briefing room.
All three of them came in - first Shinn, a confident expression on his face, followed by Heine. Athrun came in last, still needing the crutch to move. Even if he had a mobile suit onboard to use, he was in no condition to pilot.
"All right." Yzak started. "Headquarters has ordered us to participate in an operation code-name Angel Down, which began some ten minutes ago. We are en route to the theater of operations, where the Willard Team is currently engaging the Archangel. Our orders are simple: Assist the Willard Team, and bring that ship down."
A strained silence fell over the room. Athrun looked shocked and angered. Heine glanced from him to Shinn, who had a sort of satisfied look on his face. The younger man glanced at Athrun, then turned back to Yzak, who continued. "Shinn. The repairs on our mobile suits aren't finished yet, so you'll be flying solo again. Your job is to keep the Freedom at bay, while we will engage the Archangel ship-to-ship."
- "Yes, sir." Shinn said, nodding as he did so.
- "Then beat it. Be ready for immediate takeoff as soon as we're in range."
- "Right." Shinn acquiesced, and turned on his heels. With a sidelong glance at Athrun, he left. Heine soon followed.
Shinn changed into his pilot's suit, grabbing his helmet as he did so. Once he was ready, he moved to the ready room. Heine was there, as was Lunamaria.
- "You okay?" Heine asked.
- "Yeah. Thanks." Shinn said, and Lunamaria, looking at him, wondered about the confident expression on Shinn's face, especially given that from what Heine had been telling her when Shinn walked in, he was going to be engaging the Freedom one-on-one.
"What's going on here, Yzak?" Athrun asked his old friend when the two were alone. "The Chairman talked about going after Logos, right. So how does that translate into us attacking the Archangel?!"
- "How the fuck should I know?" Yzak replied shortly.
- "But this doesn't make any sense! You have to contact Headquarters and..."
- "I've already done that, dumbass!" Yzak interrupted, his temper getting the better of him. "This order comes straight from the top. You and I both know what that means!"
Athrun took a step back, shocked. If Durendal himself had given that order, then...
"They have never clearly declared their intentions, and all they have done since showing up is confuse the situation, escalate the conflict, and get people killed." Yzak continued. "The Supreme Council has decided that given the current situation, they represent a threat that has to be dealt with."
- "But Kira wouldn't..."
- "Yeah, right! And I'm sure it was someone else who attacked this ship and killed twelve people in the Dardanelles, right?" Yzak snapped in response. "Look, I understand you not wanting to fight your old buddy - again. Tough shit. If you don't want to watch, then stay in your cabin."
Yzak left the briefing room, heading up to the bridge. As he did, he pondered the monumental task that lay ahead of him. 'But against that ship and that mobile suit, it'll take a fucking miracle to come out in one piece.'
"Captain," Arthur announced when Yzak reached the bridge. "We're receiving the feed from AWACS 006, from Willard's Team. It's on the monitor, sir."
- "Good." Yzak said, glancing at the screen. "Lower the bridge. Upgrade to Condition Red - prep for anti-ship, possible anti-MS combat."
Abby broadcast the change to Condition Red, relaying the order for all pilots to standby aboard their machines. A bit of a joke, since only one machine was launching.
"Activating CIWS, Tristans, and Isoldes." Arthur said as the ship's weapons systems began to come online. "Load Launchers 1 through 6 with Parsifals, 7 through 10 with Dispars."
- "Belay that." Yzak interrupted. "I want Parsifals in all launchers. Load a full volley of ECM rounds in Isolde One, and Wolfram in all bow tubes."
- "Right." Arthur acknowledged, and the modified orders were executed.
- "Hangar reports the Impulse is on standby." Abby reported.
- "Twenty to attack point; enemy contact imminent." Bart reported.
- "Fire ECM shells! Send out the Impulse!" Yzak ordered
The Isolde fired, three rounds that streaked across the battlefield and detonated high above and ahead. With the advent of the Neutron Jammer, the only reliable means of detection most vessels had - except for sonar in the case of naval and submersible targets - were thermal or infrared sensors. And the three jamming rounds that the Minerva had fired were designed specifically to temporarily overwhelm the thermal sensors of another vessel - though great care had to be taken not to fry their own sensors as well, and regardless a firm sensor lock would be temporarily impossible.
It worked. When the shells detonated, the Archangel's sensors were overpowered. It was only a temporary effect - a few minutes at the most. But it was enough, so that when the Impulse shot from the Minerva's catapult, it did so undetected. Then the central catapult launched the Storm Silhouette. This time, to minimize its weight the wing-mounted missile launchers had been removed. As soon as it docked, Shinn shot off, heading towards his target.
"Start the attack!" Yzak barked. "All starboard launchers, fire!" Nobody questioned the order. Every one of the Minerva's five starboard-mounted four-tube launchers fired, a volley of missiles streaking in towards the general area in which the Archangel was located. Without needing to be told, the tubes were reloaded, and conventional anti-ship artillery shells were loaded into the Isolde. The enemy's next move, Yzak mused, would decide the outcome.
Kira had been flying in close to the Archangel, and when the missiles came in, was forced to break off to evade or shoot down the ones that came too close. He was about to rejoin it when the attack came from above, as the Impulse streaked in, firing first its two shoulder-mounted "Fenris" beam guns, then its beam rifle.
Kira dodged the attacks easily, but the Impulse was now positioned between him and the Archangel.
The real battle, he realized, was just beginning.
The Archangel, meanwhile, continued her course. The ship was hugging the plateau, and as it turned they suddenly saw, rounding the bluff in the opposite direction, directly ahead of them a mere two thousand meters away, the Minerva.
It seemed to materialize out of the fog, and with their sensors temporarily offline, they had had no warning. The Minerva opened fire with its bow-mounted Isolde triple cannon.
At the helm, Neumann cranked the wheel hard over and the Archangel pivoted onto its starboard side, narrowly avoiding the shells. The ship began to slip past the Minerva.
On the Minerva's bridge, Yzak smirked. 'You played your hand, and you blew it.' He thought jubilantly.
"Fire Tristans and every port-side missile launcher at the Archangel." Two of the three 230cm dual beam cannons mounted to the Minerva's bow pivoted ninety degrees and fired. At the same time, one by one each of the ship's starboard-mounted five four-tube missile launchers unleashed their payload, the missiles leaving their tubes and slamming into the exposed underside of the Archangel'
By the time the ship was past the Minerva, its underside had been struck in precisely the same spot by five four-shot missile salvoes, plus a volley from the two dual beam cannons.
Once the ship was level, the first thing Murrue did was ask for a damage report. The news was not good - the unexpected attack had caused catastrophic damage to the hangar, including nearly totally destroying the couple of remaining mobile suits.
"Why...why did they have to send that ship?" Murrue asked rhetorically to nobody in particular.
- "That's certainly bad news for us." Waltfeld commented. "Can we still submerge if we seal the bulkheads?"
- "Maybe." came the reply from Neumann at the helm. "But we won't be able to go deep - we'd have to stay just below the surface."
- "In either case, we have to make it to the sea..." Murrue said, hoping that this was still possible.
Behind them, the Minerva turned about, then continued the pursuit.
The Archangel fired as it retreated, a full barrage from the "Helldart" light missile launchers mounted behind its superstructure. The missiles shot from their launchers, raining down on the Minerva, rocking the ship, but none striking it - the ones that weren't intercepted by the ship's CIWS simply missed.
"It's all right. If we stay precisely on course, they won't hit us." Yzak commented. "In fact, they're not even trying to hit us."
- "What? They're not?" Arthur exclaimed. Yzak ignored him.
- "Counterattack. Load all launchers with Parsifals, and fire one through four." Yzak ordered, and moments later the attack continued, as the Minerva pursued its quarry.
The Archangel's CIWS intercepted the missile strike, but the follow-up attack from the Isolde cannon pounded the ship's battered hull.
Kira meanwhile was still engaged against the Impulse, which continued to press him, preventing him from linking up with the Archangel.
"Damn it! The Archangel!" Kira swore as he saw what happened. Increasing altitude, Kira accelerated, attempting to outrun the Impulse and get past him, but from below Shinn fired the beam rifle, cutting across the Freedom's path and forcing Kira to break off.
- "You're not getting away!" Shinn spat as the Storm Impulse climbed, its speed nearly matching its opponent's. As the Impulse shot forward, closing in on the Freedom, Kira fired the rifle, only for the Impulse to block his attack.
In a detached corner of his mind, Kira was impressed with the tenacity of his opponent, and while the Freedom had the overall advantage in firepower and mobility, he'd yet to land any hits on the other machine. Adjusting his aim, he fired again, aiming to take off its head.
This time, the Impulse did not block the attack. When Shinn saw the Freedom level the rifle, he knew what was coming. He nudged the controls, and the Impulse's head shifted sideways just slightly.
To Kira's surprise, his attack slipped past his opponent's head, missing by mere millimeters.
"You've had it easy up to now, but DON'T THINK YOU'RE TAKING ME DOWN!" Shinn roared as he felt, as he had a few times before, his awareness of the battlefield expand, and as if the enemy unit was telegraphing its movements, he was able to determine an instant ahead of time how it would move or aim.
He still wasn't sure what this meant. But it was an advantage he was planning to use. When the Freedom fired again, he shifted the Impulse's position, dodging the attacks by seconds and continuing to close in.
Frustratingly, Kira opened the gap, using the Freedom's superior maneuverability to stave off the Impulse, and Shinn's own counterattack with the rifle and Fenris cannons missed. Then the Freedom fired another two-shot volley - rifle arm, then head. Shinn raised the Impulse's right arm, and the first shot slipped below. At the same time, he brought the shield up in front of the Impulse's head, blocking the second shot.
Smirking as he imagined the look of surprise on the enemy pilot's face, Shinn thought back to the conversation with Athrun - if you could call it that - not so long before, when he had been trying to figure out how to beat him.
"Ultimately, it's up to Headquarters or the Supreme Council to tell us who we fight. And I know you'd rather not fight him, but I still think we should be ready in case we have to. In light of your own past experience, we'd be grateful for any assistance you could give us." Heine had said. Athrun's reply had been frustratingly vague and, Shinn had felt at the time, totally unhelpful.
"I'll say only this: Not only does the Freedom totally outclass the Impulse, Kira's one of the best pilots I've ever seen. You're good Shinn, I'll give you that; but so is he, and he's got the advantage of experience; you'll never be able to react fast enough to his attacks...If you're really as good a pilot as you think you are, you'll know what that means."
He'd thought about it for hours, mulling it over and over as he kept trying to run the simulation, looking for an opening, some way to block or counter the Freedom's devastatingly swift, precise attacks. Finally, he'd figured it out.
"Heine - I think I've got it. I can't react fast enough to avoid the attack. So I have to move BEFORE he attacks."
"Very good, Shinn. If we can anticipate his attacks, we can begin our counter before he even strikes. And I know just how to do that - look closely: he never aims for an opponent's cockpit."
"You're right! He always targets the head or the main weapon."
"Exactly. And that is how the Impulse can win. Because that pilot will never shoot to kill."
Except Rey. Heine figured that was an accident - he'd been aiming for the arm, and the ZAKU's move threw off his attack. Shinn didn't really give a damn about justification. That bastard had killed Rey, period. Just like he had tried to kill Stella, like he had nearly killed Athrun.
Just like, years ago, he had killed his family.
And now, Shinn was going to kill him.
This wasn't working. Kira realized that he had little to no chance of beating this opponent from long range. Storing the beam rifle, he drew his beam saber and charged in. Seeing this, Shinn stored his own rifle, drawing a beam saber from the Impulse's hip, and charged as well. He parried the Freedom's attack, then when he struck the Freedom blocked it with its shield, while he likewise blocked the follow-up attack.
Backpedaling, Shinn put some distance between himself and the Freedom, then attacked. He threw his shield at the Freedom, then immediately fired the Fenris beam cannons at the shield. The shots rebounded across the shield and at the Freedom. One shot went wide - the second struck its target, gouging out a sizable chunk of its left shoulder.
Not giving the enemy a chance to counterattack, Shinn charged in, aiming a vicious slash that, if it connected, would cut the Freedom open.
Kira slipped sideways and counterattacked, a one-two strike with his beam saber that severed the Impulse's head as well as its arm, taking with it the saber. Then he began to put some distance between himself and the Impulse, to try to evade it.
"Abby! Send out a replacement Chest Flyer! And get a Leg Flyer ready." Shinn demanded over the radio as he backpedaled, then accelerated towards the Freedom. As he did so he flipped a switch on his console and the Impulse separated, the Chest Flyer continuing towards the Freedom under its own momentum while he took manual flight control of the Storm Silhouette and Leg Flyer from the Core Splendor's cockpit, at the same time firing the Core Splendor's nose-mounted 20mm machine guns at the Chest Flyer at the instant in slammed into the Chest Flyer exploded, the detonation sending the Freedom reeling.
By that time, the new Chest Flyer had launched and, tracking the Core Splendor, made its way to it. Shinn recombined the four disparate Flyers into the Impulse, then shot off after the Freedom. He drew his remaining beam saber and struck as soon as he caught up.
Kira dodged the attack and countered, but again Shinn dodged and, when he tried to evade him, Shinn caught up in seconds.
"I already told you you're not getting away from me, bastard!" Shinn spat. When he struck, a vicious, vertical swipe aimed across the torso, Kira backflipped away from the attack, righting himself instantly and shot forward, aiming a horizontal slash across the Impulse's waist, just below the cockpit.
The Impulse split in half before the blow struck, its legs dropping below as its torso floated over the Freedom. The next instant, Kira was thrown forward as the Freedom's left wing exploded, shot from behind as Shinn fired the "Fenris" beam cannons before manually steering the Leg Flyer back and recombining - having purged it in order to avoid the Freedom's attack.
As the Freedom adjusted its trajectory and attempted to shake off its opponent, Shinn pursued, having stowed the saber and retrieved the rifle, firing at the Freedom as the Impulse closed in.
In spite of the dogged pursuit of the Minerva, the Archangel was still moving, badly damaged as it was, and rapidly approaching the sea.
"Distance to the coast - ten." Neumann reported.
- "The Minerva's still behind us - they're firing again!" Andy added.
- "Shake them off!" Murrue ordered. "Fire the Helldarts!"
The Archangel's Helldarts once again fired, and the smaller missiles collided with the larger Parsifals, detonating many of them. The ship's CIWS took care of the rest, and they continued heading towards the coast.
"Seal off emergency bulkheads and prepare for underwater navigation!" Murrue ordered.
Onboard the Minerva, Arthur was starting to panic.
"We're almost at the coastline Captain! They're getting away!" he said.
- "No, they're not." Yzak retorted. "Activate the Tannhäuser. Target: the renegade warship Archangel."
The Minerva's most powerful weapon slid up and forward from its armored redoubt on the bow, and began to glow as its charge gathered. The few moments it took for the positron cannon to build up to 100% were some of the tensest of Yzak's life, as the Archangel broke through and gradually hit the surface of the water, beginning to slide below its depths.
If they get underwater, they'll probably get away - even as badly damaged as they are. He thought, his nerves on edge. At last, the charge reached 100%.
"FIRE!" Yzak ordered.
Meanwhile, Shinn's pursuit of the Freedom continued, as the other both attempted to fight him off and shake him off.
"I'm taking you out! RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW!" Shinn roared as he drew the beam rifle and fired at the Freedom, following up with a volley from the Fenris cannons.
'This guy...he keeps coming.' Kira thought as he blocked the attack. All the same, he was getting closer to the Archangel's position. He fired a shot from the Freedom's beam rifle, but the Impulse blocked the attack and counterattacked, destroying the Freedom's rifle.
Shinn stowed the rifle, drawing one of the two "Caliburn" anti-MS beam swords, igniting the weapon, and throwing it.
Kira blocked the attack with the Freedom's shield, but the weight of the weapon threw the Freedom off-balance, creating a narrow opening.
Shinn drew the second Caliburn and slammed the throttles to their stops. The Impulse shot straight towards the Freedom.
At that very instant, a massive explosion expanded behind them, as the attack from the Tannhäuser struck its target.
Because the Archangel was moving, it wasn't a head-on blow, but it raked the far starboard side of the ship, taking with it the main engine block on that side of the ship, along with the Valiant, the starboard wing, and tearing open the starboard catapult on the front of the ship. The engine block's explosion raised a wall of steam, and the shockwave slammed into the Minerva, tossing the massive ship back like so much flotsam on the crest of a wave.
The explosion distracted Kira for a split second, and in that moment Shinn's Impulse was on him, weapon held out horizontally as he completed his charge.
"No!" Kira exclaimed as he snapped his attention back to the Impulse and brought the shield to bear, at the same time as he thrust the Freedom's beam saber forward, also flipping forward and firing his single remaining "Balaena" plasma beam cannon.
The Freedom's blade sliced into the Impulse's head, destroying its main camera and primary sensors. The cannon missed the Impulse itself, but it scored a hit on the Storm Silhouette, tearing off roughly two-thirds of the charging mobile suit's wing.
However, at this point the eighty-five ton Storm Impulse was charging towards the Freedom at its maximum speed, all of its momentum concentrated on the beam-edged tip of its blade, which tore through the shield, the arm, and impaled the Freedom's main body, piercing its reactor. Then, Shinn pulled the blade sideways, and it cut its way out until it came free, exiting out the Freedom's side.
The fatally stricken mobile suit exploded, and the Impulse, itself caught in the blast, was irreparably damaged.
"I...I did it." Shinn said to himself. "I actually did it..."
'Mom...Dad...Mayu. Rey...I actually did it.' he thought, as the remains of the Impulse floated over the still, dark waters that had become the grave of Kira Yamato.