PHASE 31: Counterattack

In the PLANTs, the situation had not been so chaotic since, ten months earlier, the nuclear attack by the Alliance. But this time, the situation was a thousand times worse.

Because this time, they had not been able to stop the attack.

In her quarters in a luxurious villa of Aprilius Two, Meer Campbell watched the panic grow, and she thought of the more than three million innocent men and women who had been killed.

She was at a loss as to what to do.

'What would you do, Miss Lacus?' she wondered, and she glanced in the mirror over her dresser, hating herself for not knowing what to do.

Onboard the Gondwana, Gilbert Durendal was increasingly angry, as he was in communication with his staff at Aprilius One including George Adaman, who also sat on the Supreme Council, and seemed to be getting nowhere.

"The entire city is in a panic, sir; and it's not just here; The remaining Januarius and December colonies, and everywhere else, too! The situation's getting completely out of control!" Adaman was saying.

- "I realize that," Durendal said shortly, "but you have to take charge over there; it is your job to get it under control!"

- "Sir, I must insist that you return to deal with this; the security of the homeland and the rescue of any survivors must come first. We can always deal with the situation once the situation at home had been stabilized."

- "No." Durendal said firmly. "I understand where you're coming from, but what happens if they fire a second shot?"

- "Well, what about a settlement, or some kind of ceasefire?"

- "A ceasefire, George? Are you serious?" Durendal replied, his voice rising as he fought to control his growing anger and impatience. "We're not talking about another nation or any kind of legitimate political body here. You cannot negotiate with terrorists whose stated goal is genocide! Or are you suggesting we surrender to them?"

- "But sir," Adaman started bleating.

- "Spare me your complaints." Durendal interrupted, a hint of disdain creeping into his voice. "If it's too much for you, get Chairwoman Joule and the National Defense Committee to take over." He slammed down the phone, then made a call to Martius City, and as he expected, found Ezalia at her office, working to try and get things under control.

- "Of course," she said when he explained the situation, "I'll ask someone to take care of things here and head over right away."

That situation dealt with for now, Durendal turned his attention to his military commanders, as the Gondwana led the enormous ZAFT orbital fleet on its course directly towards the first of the enemy weapon's relay stations. He was counting on rapid detection of his own ships and deployment by the Atlantic Federation of its forces at Daedalus, and ideally also from Arzachel.

- Durendal's expectations were met, as deep within Daedalus's control room, the ZAFT fleet's movement was detected nearly instantly.

- "The ZAFT orbital fleet is on the move! Yellow 136 Alpha - They're heading towards Fauré!" the announcement rang throughout Daedalus's control room.

- "Hurry up and recharge the Requiem now!" Shaw ordered. "And make sure that the positioning for the second movement is completely accurate!"

- "Yes, sir." came the response. Jibril turned to shaw, smirking.

- "This time, we will wipe Aprilius out for good." He said. "Make sure to keep the relay and the cannon protected."

- "Right." Shaw replied. "I've sent orders to Arzachel to mobilize the Eighth Mobile Fleet, and I'm also sending the Third Fleet as well to reinforce Fauré - we'll make sure that their defenses are completely airtight."

And from both Arzachel and Daedalus, dozens of additional vessels launched, heading out towards the nearest relay station, Fauré, where they were expecting to engage the ZAFT fleet - and probably those fool Eurasian traitors, as well.

But that was fine, Jibril thought. They could deal with Eurasia once the PLANTs had been obliterated.

Orb Union

In the Orb Union, Cagalli stared, shocked, at the attack and the resulting devastation; 3.3 million civilians dead in the destruction of six PLANT colonies.

She had already begun making preparations to muster the Orb space fleet, and at Onogoro and Kaguya, preparations were underway for the Kusanagi to be launched, where it would rejoin its three sister ships, the Izumo, Susanoo, and Tsukiyomi, at Ame-no-Mihashira.

But all the same, she wanted to do something.

"I wonder how things are in the PLANTs." she said, to nobody in particular. But nearby, Ledonir Kisaka replied.

- "I am certain that ZAFT will do everything in their power to prevent any more attacks on the PLANTs." He said reassuringly. "All we can do here is prepare for any eventuality."

- "I hope you're right." she said. "But that thing's not just a threat to the PLANTs. What's to stop them from firing at Eurasia, or Orb?"

- "That is true." Rondo Mina Sahaku, who walked up to them, intervened. "Which is why, I presume, we are making preparations to mobilize the Orb space fleet."

- "Yeah." Cagalli replied. "Have we heard anything from the PLANTs, or from Eurasia?"

- "Nothing, milady." Mina replied. "I have learned that an extremely large fleet has begun moving from lunar orbit towards one of the relays, but nothing has come back to us; it appears that they have not requested our assistance as of yet."

- "I see." Cagalli said. "It's frustrating, not being able to help - but there's nothing we can do right now, except be ready."

She wondered especially where the Joule Team was now, and what they were doing.

At that very moment, the Joule Team was in lunar orbit, moving slowly towards its target. The seven-ship group - The Minerva and its two escorts, plus the Hirschfelder, the Alakhshya, and two Nelson-class escorts - was in tight formation, as on the bridge of the Minerva, the three leaders of the operation - Yzak, Captain Badgiruel, and Commander Morgan - ran through their strategy.

"It looks like Arzachel has sent the bulk of their forces out to defend the Relay Station, and Daedalus sent forces as well." Yzak said. "So far, everything is going according to plan."

- "Now, what's our strategy?" Morgan replied inquiringly, his tone rather brusquely implying his own skepticism as to the worth of their current battle strength relative to their objective.

- "The same; I expect that a fairly sizable defense force is still going to be present here despite these deployments. For that reason, the Voltaire, Rousseau, and Hirschfelder will make an initial attack here," he said, indicating the far side of the base, "escorted by the Zumwalt and the Spruance. The objective is to hit the enemy base, and attack their defenses - keep their forces busy as much as possible. Open with an initial long-range attack from the ships, then deploy mobile suits."

- "And the Minerva?" Morgan asked.

- "The Minerva and Alakhshya will make a covert approach, using the terrain mask to close in here." Yzak indicated a second point, on the far side of the base from where he had initially indicated. Nearest to there was the barrel of the Cannon itself. "The goal, of course, is to eliminate the cannon's control systems and prevent them from firing a second shot."

- "Without knowing how long its power charge cycle is," Natarle interceded, "The question is how much time do we have left?"

- "Probably not long." Yzak replied. "However, while the enemy is largely preoccupied with the lunar fleet, we have sufficient forces here to carry out both a decoy maneuver with the three Nazcas and two Nelsons, plus a separate surprise attack on the cannon with the other two ships."

The other officers nodded, and once Morgan and Captain Badgiruel returned to their ships to brief their forces, Yzak summoned his pilots to brief them, and he briefly relayed their strategy.

- "This mission is of the utmost importance, and it is probably going to be the toughest one we've ever had." Yzak said. "But if we fail, we won't have a home to go back to. And that is not an option. Got that?"

- "Yes, sir." Athrun and Shinn replied simultaneously. Nobody else spoke.

Shinn's expression was essentially neutral, but Yzak saw the look of barely-controlled rage in the young pilot's red eyes, the same Yzak himself felt. And he marveled internally at this uncharacteristic level of self-control from his hot-headed young charge.

Shinn's anger was also reflected in Athrun's own expression. Except for the immutable Rey, the others all looked scared, or angry, or both.

Understandable, Yzak knew. As long as nobody screwed up, he didn't give a damn.

- "Obviously," Rey spoke up, "We can't allow that thing to be fired again. No matter what it takes."

- "Right." Yzak nodded. "So you all know the stakes. Do not fail."

- "Yes, sir!" They all replied.

Yzak nodded, and he began to outline their strategy: Shinn, Athrun, Rey, Luna and Stella would launch in their machines to attack the cannon while the Minerva and Alakhshya - the latter hidden by its Mirage Colloid Stealth System - would carry out a long-range bombardment of the base's defenses. It would be up to Luna and Stella to target the cannon itself, while the other three engaged the enemy mobile suit defenses.

The briefing concluded, he dismissed his pilots, who headed out to get ready and stand by for launch. And so, the final preparations were made.

On the screen in the ready room, Rey, Shinn and Athrun watched footage of the battle that was even then ongoing at Fauré, the station's second relay point.

"If the Gondwana and the lunar fleet can take out that relay station before they fire, the PLANTs should be safe for now. But, if they fire first, we lose the fleet too." Athrun said somberly.

- "And you know that madman won't hesitate to pull the trigger." Rey added. "Not for a second."

- "Yeah," Shinn said darkly "he's the one to blame for all of this - the head of Logos. Lord Jibril."

- "If only we'd been able to shoot him down in Orb." Lunamaria said.

- "It's not your fault, Luna." Shinn said. "It's the Seirans' fault for giving him refuge in the first place. If they hadn't..."

Athrun caught the distinction - that Shinn had specifically laid the blame where it belonged, at the feet of the late Seirans, rather than blaming Orb as he might have done.

Had the situation not been so grim, he would have smiled.

- "In any case," Rey said coldly, "We can't turn back the clock. If that's how you feel, just make sure you don't make the same mistake again."

- "Rey!" Shinn interjected, but at a glance from Athrun he felt silent.

- "We just have to make sure that this time, he can't escape." Athrun said. "The PLANTs or the lunar fleet - we have to take them down before they have the chance to fire at either."

- "And as for Jibril..." Shinn said firmly, his voice shaking with anger. "If I get the chance, I'll kill him myself."

Even as the ship continued to close in, the ZAFT and Alliance ships led by the Hirschfelder began their own attack.

"Requiem is operating, charge at 48%" Came the report inside the base. "Positioning for Second Movement nearly complete."

They would be ready to fire soon, and that in spite of the ZAFT attack; Among the reinforcements to Fauré had been a team of Positron Reflector-equipped Drake-class escort ships, which had taken up their positions shortly before the enemy arrived, and now, the relay station was impregnable - even as the reinforced mobile armor teams kept the ZAFT forces occupied.

Their victory was assured - all but inevitable now.

Then, a barrage of missiles was detected coming in, and the base's defenses moved into action. On the edge of the complex, an array of 75mm CIWS turrets began firing, laying down a hail of cannonfire that intercepted more than half of the enemy salvo, even as the mobile suits began to deploy.

But the barrage, followed by a second wave of missiles, then a withering salvo of beam cannonfire, wreaked havoc on the base defenses.

- "We've detected the enemy ships - three Nazca-class and two Nelson-class vessels, closing in. The enemy is deploying mobile suits as well."

- "Begin our counterattack at once!" Shaw ordered. "Deploy mobile armors immediately."

Throughout the base, formations of TS/MA-5B Euclids began to launch, at the same time as two ground-based Gells-Ghe mobile armors, which deployed at key strategic points, and a single Zamza-Zah, which soared in towards the approaching enemy mobile suits.

The Zamza-Zah opened fire first, decimating the wave of GAT-04 Windams that had launched from the two Nelson-class ships, but at that moment a blue ZAFT GOUF Ignited and a black Blaze ZAKU Warrior moved in towards the mobile armor, attacking it from two sides. The ZAKU fired its beam rifle and a volley of missiles. Then, even as the Zamza-Zah deployed its positron reflector, the GOUF Ignited closed in. The Zamza-Zah could not fire through its own reflector, and the GOUF Ignited's "Slayer Whip" heat rod passed through the field as if it wasn't there, slicing off the two rearmost reflector emitters. With the reflector field disabled, the two machines opened fire, destroying the mobile armor.

On the bridge of the Hirschfelder, Commander Morgan watched their progress with some satisfaction, until suddenly his CIC spoke up.

"Multiple enemy mobile armors approaching! One of them is closing in at...three times the speed of the others!"

- "What?" Morgan exclaimed.

A formation of Euclid mobile armors approached the three ships. But ahead of them was a larger machine. Similar to the Euclids, but half again as long, an ominous, dark green monster streaking impossibly fast across the battlefield towards the approaching ships.

This was the prototype from which the Euclid had been developed, the TSX/MA-4QF Thales. Developed based on the Zamza-Zah, Gells-Ghe, and Chaos, as well as the Destroy, it was armed with two powerful beam guns, a multiphase beam cannon, a missile launcher, two shell-firing gatling guns, and four wirelessly-controlled gunbarrels, and defended by an array of positron reflectors. It was also the fastest mobile weapon of its kind ever created, and it shot past the first line of enemy mobile weapons easily, then deployed its gunbarrels, targeting the two Nelson-class escorts as they moved in to defend the Nazca-class ships. The Spruance fell within moments, crippled by the initial attack, as the Thales finished it off with a barrage from its fixed weapons.

Dearka and Shiho, at that moment, fired on the Thales, and at its controls, Lukas O'Donnell dodged the attacks with ease.

"Well now, this is my kind of mobile armor." Lukas commented with a savage grin. "No way in hell the Coordinators are going to be able to defeat us."

As he drew a bead on the black ZAKU Warrior, he reflected again on his old maxim. "The only good Coordinator is a dead one." He commented as he fired. The ZAKU was barely able to block the attack, but it and the GOUF Ignited counter-attacked. He activated his mobile armor's positron reflectors, blocking the incoming assault.

- "That bastard took out four of our mobile suits and one of the ships in barely thirty seconds." Dearka railed as he fired again. "We have to take him out!"

- "I know, Dearka." Shiho replied. "But I can't seem to close in - he's too goddamn fast, and those gunbarrels are a problem too."

She glanced at the digital readout on her console. They were running out of time - but if they could just hold it off a little while longer...

Inside Daedalus's control room, Shaw smirked.

"O'Connell is certainly proving more than a match for the Coordinators." he said. "And the Thales is a hell of a machine."

- "Good." Jibril smirked. "What's the status of Requiem?"

- "We're at 50% charge; Our forces at Fauré are successfully holding them back as well."

- "Excellent - keep it up." Jibril said. "If we can protect Fauré just a little longer, victory will be ours."

- "You're right about that." Shaw said. "And finally we'll have put an end to the war with those accursed Coordinators."

- "Where others failed, we at last will triumph." Jibril said emphatically. "And I am the one who did it! History itself will be corrected in a matter of hours."

- "Missiles incoming from ten o'clock, sir!" the alert rang out suddenly as a volley of missiles streaked in...from the other side of the base, at the complete opposite of the ongoing battle.

- "What?" Shaw retorted. "Where the hell did they come from? What ship?"

- "Unknown, sir. Detecting no enemy vessels in that sector."

The LHM-BB01 Minerva, unbeknownst to Daedalus, had begun its attack, firing a volley of MMI-M382S space-use "Fafnir-S" missiles; a space-use variant of the ship's devastating supersonic cruise missile, it had a cruising speed of only 800 knots - less than half of the naval-use Fafnir-E - but a 600kg explosive warhead. Two volleys of four missiles soared towards Daedalus, fired from the ship's position outside the base's detection range and protected by the terrain. Too fast for the base's defenses to intercept, the missiles slammed into it, inflicting horrifying damage to the structure and nearly obliterating the base's fixed defenses in that sector.

Once the missiles were fired, the Minerva accelerated, its weapons armed, pilots standing by onboard their machines for immediate launch.

"Lunamaria." Athrun said over the comms. "Remember - your timing has to be perfect. Stella will cover you, and Shinn, Rey and I will back you up as best we can."

- "Right." Lunamaria replied. "I know what I have to do."

- "Good." Athrun said. "Shinn, Rey - you guys are the best shot we have. You know what to do."

- "Roger that." Came the simultaneous reply from the two, who would be the first of the five of them to launch.

In the cockpit of the Destiny, Shinn was ready, steeling himself once again for battle. He thought of Lunamaria, Stella, and all of the people on board.

'I'll protect them. The ship, the PLANTs. Everyone - I'll protect them all. I swear.' He thought grimly.

Even as above the stealth-cloaked Alakhshya fired a volley of missiles from its own launchers, the Minerva's mobile suits began to launch. First to exit were Shinn's Destiny and Rey's Legend, followed immediately by the two Impulse Gundams, then Athrun's Saviour.

And as they moved in, they were at last detected by Daedalus's defense forces.

- "More missiles closing in from ten o'clock, sir! Also, we're detecting an incoming enemy vessel - distance, 500 - it's the Minerva, sir! Five mobile suits are inbound!"

- "What?! The Minerva is here?!" Jibril retorted. As far as he knew, that accursed ship was still at Carpentaria. So didn't matter.

- "Incompetent fools! How did it get this close unnoticed?" Shaw demanded. "Scramble additional forces, sound the alarm! And get O'Connell over here! Intercept that ship immediately!"

Additional forces were mustered - mostly Daggers, as unfortunately the bulk of their Euclid forces were tied up at Fauré or on the other side of the base, where the battle continued.

But the Gells-Ghe was diverted, and an additional one as well as a Zamza-Zah were launched, all of them headed towards the Minerva and its mobile suits.

Meanwhile onboard the Gondwana, Durendal received a status report regarding the battle.

"Sir, the Joule Team is engaged in battle at Daedalus, facing heavy resistance, but making headway."

- "Is that so?" Durendal said rhetorically. "Then let us pray for their success. And what of the battle here?"

- "The same; we're seeing heavy resistance, and we haven't been able to get through to strike at the colony itself because of those reflector-equipped ships of theirs."

Durendal looked pensive for a moment. "I want you to release information about the battle to the public as it comes in - internationally; both in the PLANTs and on Earth." He said.

- "Sir? Aren't you worried that..."

- "No, I don't believe we have anything to worry about - this won't cause any panic." Durendal replied. "I'm sure the people want to know about their destiny...about what the future holds for them. And they have a right to know that, wouldn't you say?"

- "Yes, sir."

And so, the battle was broadcast to every single station in the PLANTs, and from there also on the networks on Earth.

At Daedalus, meanwhile the battle had begun in earnest, as the enemy forces began to engage the Minerva's mobile suit teams. As the fastest of them, the Destiny and Legend were the first to engage the enemy forces, as Shinn fired the Destiny's rifle at the incoming Dagger formations, while Rey turned his attention on the rapidly-approaching Zamza-Zah, which fired its two frontal plasma cannons at the Legend.

Rey dodged the attack easily, then deployed the Legend's primary weapon: The DRAGOON System, an array of highly mobile, wirelessly-controlled remote weapons pods. The Legend possessed a total of sixteen of these, two mounted on its hips, eight on its wings, and six more on articulated binders on its back.

He first launched the six dorsal remotes, which fired their beam cannons at the Zamza-Zah, and the mobile armor engaged its positron reflector. However, the two remotes on the Legend's hip were designed specifically to counter beam shields and similar technology, and he deployed them as well. The two beam spikes pierced through the reflector and stabbed into the mobile armor itself. The reflector was deactivated, and the follow-up barrage from the other remotes eliminated it.

His target destroyed, Rey recalled and docked the eight remotes, then moved in towards his next target.

Athrun, meanwhile, arrived and linked up with them, and the three machines were engaging the enemy mobile suits even as the two Impulse Gundams secretly continued to approach the base. Shinn deployed the Destiny's "Megálos Kerberos" beam cannons and fired, cutting down two enemy mobile suits even as Athrun did likewise with the Knight Saviour's "Amfortas Kai" and "Hyper Fortis" cannons.

The Minerva continued its bombardment of the base, while its CIWS intercepted a barrage of enemy missiles aimed at the ship. The Alakhshya, still cloaked, hung back per their strategy, their forces in reserve to support the Joule Team's attacks if needed.

Shinn and Athrun spotted the two Gells-Ghes closing in as well, attempting to move in towards the Minerva. They moved instantly.
While Rey used the Legend's DRAGOONs to cover them, the Knight Saviour and Destiny split up, each one targeting one of the two mobile armors.

Shinn fired the Destiny's beam cannons and, predictably, the Gells-Ghe ignited its positron reflector, dodging the attack. He immediately docked the cannons, drew the two "Shining Edge" beam saber/boomerangs, and threw one, which slipped through the reflector and lodged itself into the Gells-Ghe's shoulder, disabling that reflector and the field, though the weapon was destroyed as a result. He immediately closed in and severed the torso from the main body. Then, drawing one of the two "Moralltach" beam swords, he bisected the mobile armor from front to back, killing its crew.
He caught and docked the second "Shining Edge", then withdrew.

Athrun, meanwhile, likewise fired on the Gells-Ghe with his own machine's cannons, an attack that was also blocked. But before he had a chance to close in, the Destiny fired from the mobile armor's side, where its reflector could not protect it. The two powerful beam cannons tore the mobile armor apart.

Meanwhile, Lunamaria and Stella's two Impulse Gundams were closing in on their target: The cannon itself.

Suddenly, an alert rang as they detected an enemy mobile armor closing in fast. Stella turned, rifle drawn, to engage, even as Athrun's Knight Saviour closed in on their position.

But Lukas O'Donnell's Thales was too fast, and it shot past the Saviour even as he deployed his Gunbarrels, which surrounded the Impulse and fired their twin beam cannons. Stella blocked or evaded the attacks, then she fired, first with the beam rifle, then the "Fenris" shoulder beam cannons.

A positron reflector activated on the Gunbarrel she had targeted, and her attacks were deflected harmlessly. Lukas turned towards the Blast Impulse, locked on, and fired the Thales's "Zorn" multiphase beam cannon.

But this time Athrun's Saviour intervened, deploying the "Validus Fulgor" high-powered beam shield mounted on his machine's MMI-RGX46 Assault Shield - an earlier version of the MMI-RGX47 shield used by the Destiny, it differed slightly in the armaments it carried, but was just as effective. He counterattacked immediately, drawing the RQM-55E "Flash Edge II" beam boomerang stored in his shield, and launched it at the nearest Gunbarrel.

Lukas was ready, and fired on the boomerang with another one of the Gunbarrels, destroying it before he counterattacked with his machine's two powerful beam cannons, an attack which the Saviour again blocked. He accelerated the mobile armor and swept past his opponent, turning his attention back on the Storm Impulse. He noticed vaguely that its color was red instead of blue as it'd been in Hamburg, but dismissed it.

"Well kid, it's been fun. But now it's time to say good-bye!" He commented viciously as he again launched his Gunbarrels. This time, the Impulse was not able to entirely avoid the attack, and one shot sheared off its rifle arm. Then, the Gunbarrels moved in, igniting the "Horned Moon" beam blades, and converged on the Impulse, the goal being to tear it apart.

In the Storm Impulse's cockpit, Stella panicked. She couldn't beat this thing, it was too fast and too powerful. She was going to die, and...

"STELLA!" She heard suddenly over the communications link to the other mobile suits. "EJECT THE CORE SPLENDOR!"

She recognized Shinn's voice and instinctively she reached down and pulled the lever situated on the left side of her seat.

The Impulse seemed to come apart as its torso - Chest and Silhouette Flyer - shot upwards into the path of the incoming Gunbarrels, and the Impulse's cockpit block transformed into a tiny, blue-and-white fighter aircraft, which peeled off instantly. A split second later, the Chest and Storm Silhouette Flyers were cut to pieces by the Thales's attack.

In the cockpit of the Thales, Lukas saw with some surprise what happened even as his Gunbarrels sliced the Impulse to shreds, and he recognized the fighter as the same aircraft that kid had been piloting when he'd returned Stella to them. Stupid kid.

But then he realized that the pilot wasn't the kid - it was someone else, a girl. And as she glanced upwards through the clear canopy, even through the visor of the helmet, Lukas was shocked to recognize Stella.
'Stella? How...she's supposed to be dead!' He thought. And yet here she was with ZAFT.

He didn't have time to wonder how the hell that had happened though, because suddenly, another mobile suit appeared, moving impossibly fast and beam saber drawn. Lukas barely had time to register the fact that it was a new model before it closed in and fired on the Thales.

He activated the starboard-side positron reflector, blocking the attack, then immediately turned and gunned his mobile armor towards the new attacker, firing the "Zorn" cannon and the beam guns at it. As he did so, he saw that it was the same new model that had been in the attack on Heaven's Base, and decided that he might as well destroy it.

Shinn Asuka's Destiny Gundam immediately slipped sideways as he ignited his "Validus Fulgor" beam shield, blocking the attack even as he shifted out of the Thales's line of fire.

"Athrun, cover the Core Splendor! Stella, you need to return to the Minerva!" he said. "I'll deal with this asshole."

- "Right!" Athrun acknowledged, then as the Core Splendor began to bug out, he followed, covering its retreat while Shinn kept his attention on the mobile armor.

Shinn keyed his communications to an open frequency, and established a link to the enemy mobile armor.
"Lukas O'Donnell." He said coldly. "I thought you were dead, you bastard."

Shinn wasn't sure how he had guessed that it was O'Donnell; something about that mobile armor and its movements reminded him of the Chaos, though it was far larger and much faster.
And for all he knew, O'Donnell was dead - shot down in Hamburg. But it was him.

- "Sorry to disappoint, kid." Lukas replied cynically. "But you always were a naïve little punk - that's a flaw of yours."
O'Donnell was only slightly surprised that the kid was the one piloting the new model, a fact that he quickly dismissed as irrelevant.

- "I'm going to kill you." Shinn said just as coldly, even as he felt his awareness expand, as it had at times before - and especially at Heaven's Base.

- "Oh, I'd like to see you try!" Lukas retorted, and he deployed his Gunbarrels, then fired from each one even as he launched a volley from his mobile armor's M54 "Archer" missile launcher.

The Destiny's CIWS spun to life, cutting down the missiles before they were even halfway to the mobile suit, even as Shinn subtly shifted the controls and activated his beam shields, either dodging by millimeters or blocking the attacks.

Just like with the Destroy at Heaven's Base, he could almost see the trajectory of the remote weapons, almost as if he could somehow determine their movement a split second before they actually moved. It was tougher this time because the Gunbarrels were faster and there were more of them, compared to the Destroy's, and there were a few very close calls. But not a single attack connected. He counterattacked with a simultaneous strike from the beam rifle to one of the Gunbarrels and a volley from the beam cannons at the mobile armor itself, but was not surprised when positron reflectors activated to block his attack.

One of the Gunbarrels moved in towards him and fired, the shot actually clipping his rifle. He threw the now-useless weapon into its path just before it detonated and shifted laterally, then ignited the Voilure Lumière, accelerated and moved in towards the mobile armor, drawing his remaining "Shining Edge", igniting the saber blade, and aiming a low slash down at the mobile armor's underbelly.

Lukas flipped a switch, one of two articulated arms mounted underneath the mobile armor unfolded, and a pair of beam blades ignited. He parried the saber strike with the beam claw, then used his mobile armor's thrusters to pull away, before moving back in for an attack, firing the beam cannons at the little pest.

"How is it possible for that little bastard to be so fast?" He raged when the Destiny avoided his attack again.

Clearing the line of fire, Lukas again activated and deployed his four Gunbarrels, firing each of them in turn on the Destiny from multiple directions, then forward-deployed one of them, ignited its beam blades.

Shinn activated the Voilure Lumière again, then as the Destiny slid sideways ignited the "Solidus Fulgor" beam shield on his machine's right hand. The near blade glanced off the shield, then instantly Shinn deactivated the shield, flipped his hand, and fired the "Palma Fiocina" cannon into the Gunbarrel at point-blank range. The weapon pod exploded. Then, stowing his "Shining Edge", he drew the two "Moralltach" beam swords and activated them. When another one of the Gunbarrels fired at him, he evaded the attack, raised his left arm, and fired the "Grapple Stinger" anchor.

A positron reflector activated, but the anti-beam-coated anchor blades cut through it like a hot knife through butter, then buried themselves into the guts of the Gunbarrel. Shinn retracted the line just as the fatally stricken pod exploded.

"That's not fucking possible." Lukas swore as he saw this. He recalled the two remaining Gunbarrels, then charged in, firing every weapon he had - the Gunbarrels' four guns, his own mounted guns, and the "Zorn" cannon. The Destiny evaded the attack again, then slipped below his line of fire and struck, a sweeping, diagonal slash with one of those enormous beam blades.

Lukas deployed both the beam claws - one to parry the attack, a second to counter, but the Destiny broke off its attack, slipped back, and parried one claw with a drawn blade, then kicked the other one with its leg, the beam blade stretching from knee to foot on the Destiny's leg sliding just below the ignited claw and severing it. Then the Destiny severed the other beam claw with its sabers and prepared to fire, but Lukas again accelerated, evading the attack.

"I have had enough of this kid already." Lukas complained grimly. "Just what the hell is with him?"

But there was no stopping it, no evading this antagonist.
The Thales was the fastest mobile armor ever created. But while it may have been faster than any conventionally-powered mobile weapon in the world, the Destiny was faster still, and there was no matching its maneuverability.

Lukas again deployed the two Gunbarrels, moving swiftly around the Destiny, both of them striking at it from the rear. The machine pivoted around, blocking the attacks as they came in. When one of the Gunbarrels accelerated towards him, beam blades engaged, he swung, carving it in half with the Moralltach before it even got near him.

This was the opening Lukas had been looking for, and even as he fired the twin beam cannons of the remaining Gunbarrel, he accelerated towards the Destiny from behind.

Shinn saw the mobile armor closing in on him from behind, undoubtedly preparing to fire. And he also saw the attack from the Gunbarrel. He threw the "Moralltach" beam sword in his left hand at the Gunbarrel and shifted the controls, the Destiny sliding downwards even as the Moralltach buried itself deep in the Gunbarrel, its long blade piercing through the weapon pod from front to back, and it exploded.

A split second later, Shinn ignited the "Beagalltach" blade mounted to his assault shield.

The attack from the mobile armor passed harmlessly overhead, and seconds later, so did the mobile armor itself. That's when he struck, with the Moralltach he still held in his right hand and the Beagalltach, and the attack severed the thruster unit mounted to each side of the front of the mobile armor, leaving it dead in the water and deprived of its positron reflectors.

Then he aimed a second strike from the Moralltach, which cut the mobile armor in half, before deploying the two "Megálos Kerberos" cannons and firing them, one 180mm cannon blasting each half of the mobile armor from near-point-blank range. The resulting explosion was tremendous, and when the smoke cleared, there was nothing left of Lukas O'Donnell or his machine but a scattering of small hunks of metal.

Shinn accelerated and moved upwards, linking up with the Legend as it remained engaged with the enemy machines.

"Good job, Shinn." Rey said, sounding visibly impressed at the brutal efficiency his old friend had just displayed.

Shinn replied with a nod, even as far behind them both, he saw the Knight Saviour and Storm Impulse returning. As the two machines had drawn near to the Minerva, with Athrun covering them, the Impulse had received a new Chest and Leg Flyer, as well as a replacement Storm Silhouette, and was now re-entering the fray.

The destruction of the Thales was not received well in the control room of Daedalus Base.

"What's our status?" Jibril demanded.

- "We're at 56% charge, sir." someone replied.

- "Damn it, we're dealing with just one ship, and barely a half-dozen mobile suits?" Shaw raged. "Why can't we take it out? Haven't the Destroys launched yet?"

From docking bays near the cannon, three dark gray GFAS-X1 Destroy mobile armors began to deploy. Two of them turned towards the Minerva, while the second turned to open fire on the ZAFT ships at the other side of the base, when suddenly two enormous beams of light lanced outwards, seemingly from nowhere, and obliterated one of the three.

- "WHAT? Where the hell did that attack come from?" Shaw raged.

- "Another ship detected, 11 o'clock, distance 150. It's a Niranjan-class, sir - the Alakhshya!"

- "Impossible!" Shaw retorted. "That ship was scrapped before it was even completed years ago!"

- "Evidently not." Jibril replied coldly.

Natarle Badgiruel, her ship's Mirage Colloid Stealth System deactivated, ordered her mobile suits to launch - four Hyperion-Gs, led by two new models: Sven Cal Bayan's GAT-X105E Strike Noir Gundam, and Mudie Holcroft's GAT-X1022 Blu Duel Gundam.

The two teams of three mobile suits shot forward, heading each towards one of two remaining Destroys, even as the four Windams and two Hyperion-Gs that made up the remainder of the ship's completement took up defensive positions around her and began to engage the enemy Daggers and Euclids that closed in.

Shinn, Rey, and Athrun converged on the six new Alliance mobile suits, and Athrun opened up a communications line with them. Meanwhile, Stella used the terrain mask to catch up to and resume her position covering the Blast Impulse.

"We have to take down those two mobile armors, or they're going to decimate our forces." He said.

- "I agree." Sven said. "Those are our orders: To eliminate them and anything else."

- "Fair enough." Athrun replied. "I'll go with you. Shinn, Rey, you two go with the Duel and the other two machines."

- "Right." Came the simultaneous reply from the two Gundams.

In the cockpit of the Blu Duel, Mudie did not reply despite her deep mistrust of Coordinators, mainly because either of those two machines looked like they could obliterate her own in seconds - she'd seen the Heaven's Base footage and footage from the Battle of Orb. And she'd been watching the battle here too, right up until they were ordered to sortie.

But there was another reason, too. And it had to do with that strange kid...

The two formations split up. With Athrun in the lead, Sven's Strike and accompanying Hyperion-Gs closed in on one of the two Destroy Gundams, while Shinn, Rey, and Mudie's team converged on the other. At that moment, the Minerva fired its Tannhäuser into the base, but a Gells-Ghe moved in, deploying its positron reflector, and blocked the attack.

Mudie's team was closest.

"I'll deal with that one. Hyperion 5 and 6, follow me." She said viciously as she deployed her Duel's two beam pistols and fired on the Gells-Ghe from above. The mobile armor retreated and reactivated its positron reflector, blocking her attack, then countered, firing its two beam rifles.
The Blu Duel, having been designed for high-mobility, close-range ground combat, was a highly agile mobile suit, and Mudie thumbed the controls that activated a bank of thrusters on the machine's backpack, allowing her to avoid the attack easily.

She counterattacked instantly, firing her machine's twin beam pistols at the enemy machine, followed up by a volley from the 115mm railgun that was mounted underneath her shield.

The Gells-Ghe redeployed its positron reflector, its crew confident that their barrier would deflect the attack, which it did.

Meanwhile the Hyperion-Gs were closing in as well. One of them fired its "Forfanterie" beam cannon and "Zastava Stigmate" beam submachine gun at the mobile armor, whose positron reflector was still active.

However, the "Forfanterie" beam cannon was designed to be able to fire through the Hyperion series's "Armure Lumière" mono-phase lightwave barrier, a defensive system that was a scaled-down version of the Umbrella of Artemis - and the same technology that was used to create the Positron Reflectors used by the Gells-Ghe and the other mobile armors. The beam cannon's shot tore through the barrier and obliterated the humanoid upper torso, taking with it two of the three reflectors, and the two rifles.

- "Now we've got you, you little fucker!" Mudie said with a kind of savage satisfaction, as she and the two Hyperion-Gs unleashed their weapons on the Gells-Ghe, obliterating it.

Meanwhile, Shinn and Rey were engaging the Destroy, which launched its two Gunbarrels.

"Heads up, Shinn!" Rey warned.

- "I see them." Shinn replied. To himself, he muttered. "Those things again. The bastards...they just never learn, do they?"

- "I'll cover you - you just move in and take it out!" Rey said over the comms as the two machines moved into position almost instantly.

- "Right!" Shinn replied.

He gunned the Destiny inwards, even as Rey deployed the Legend's DRAGOONs, the sixteen remotes firing a carefully-calculated barrage of beam cannonfire that surrounded the Destiny, preventing anything from getting anywhere near it. The approaching Gunbarrels ignited their positron reflectors, and Rey instantly retasked his two beam spike units to target the nearest one. The two weapons cut through the reflector and buried themselves deep in the gigantic weapons pod, cutting through it and withdrawing. As it exploded, the second one fired a barrage at the Legend, which blocked with its own beam shield, even as it ignited its own Voilure Lumière propulsion system and evaded a follow-up strike from the Destroy itself, which fired its "Nefertem" plasma guns at them.

At that moment, the Destiny moved in towards the Gunbarrel, its arm shot forward as if he wanted to grab it, and he fired a point-blank shot deep into the weapons pod from the "Palma Fiocina" beam cannon. The Gunbarrel exploded instantly.

"That takes care of those." Rey commented. "Now to take out the main body."

At that moment, the Destroy fired its main cannons, and Shinn deployed the more powerful "Validus Fulgor", while Rey, who lacked the same, slipped into position behind him. They blocked the attack, and Rey immediately redeployed his DRAGOONs, firing a barrage towards the Destroy, which activated its positron reflector. However, some of the DRAGOONs, which were attacking from above, behind, and to the side as well as the front, found their mark, and the two enormous dorsal cannons were destroyed.

Then Shinn pushed the Voilure Lumière to maximum output and accelerated the Destiny towards the Destroy, which fired its triple "Super Scylla" cannon. He dipped below its trajectory, his single Moralltach drawn, and drove it deep into the lowest section of the main body, just above the waist, where he knew the cockpit to be located. The long, powerful blade carved deep into the machine, exiting out the back, and then Shinn drew it out sideways, then pulled back slightly, deployed the two Megálos Kerberos cannons and fired them into its knees, toppling the giant mobile armor where it stood.

"One down." He said harshly, and there was no remorse in his voice, only an icy determination.

At the same time, Athrun and Sven led their two Hyperion-Gs against the second Destroy, which likewise launched its two Gunbarrels. One of the Hyperion-Gs was destroyed in the onslaught, but the second one, activating the "Armure Lumière" generator mounted to the tip of his beam cannon, blocked the attack, then countered, destroying the attacking Gunbarrel with the "Forfanterie" cannon.

Sven drew one of his machine's two "Fragarach III" anti-MS beam swords and, covered by the Saviour and remaining Hyperion-G, moved in on the Gunbarrel and drove the blade deep into the central upper section, where the positron reflector was located. That disabled, he drew one of his two "Shorty" beam rifles and fired, while the Saviour did the same, and the crossfire destroyed the second weapon pod.

Athrun then drew and activated his two beam sabers then accelerated, pushing the Saviour to its highest speed, slipping into the blind spot directly underneath and to the rear of the massive mobile armor, where none of its weapons could reach. He severed both knees, then pulled back at high speed as the mobile armor began to collapse. It fell to the ground, and above, Sven deployed the Strike Noir's twin linear guns and drew the two beam pistols that formed his machine's ranged armament, while the Hyperion-Gs deployed their "Forfanterie" beam cannons. All mobile suits fired simultaneously, even as Athrun added the combined firepower of the Knight Saviour's two beam rifles, "Hyper Fortis" beam cannons and "Amfortas Kai" plasma cannons, consummating the mobile armor's destruction.

In the cockpit of the Strke Noir, Sven looked dispassionately down at the carnage he and his teammates had wrought, before ordering the Hyperion-Gs to form up on the Strike Noir.

"Shinn!" Athrun contacted the Destiny. "Link up with the Impulses and cover them! Rey and I will handle it from here." He ordered.

- "Roger that." Shinn replied and he peeled off, as Rey's Legend, Mudie's Duel, and the remaining Hyperion-Gs linked up with Athrun and Sven's force.

The group then moved across the battlefield, where they engaged the forces still doing battle against the Hirschfelder's mobile suits and the two Joule Team ships, catching them in a pincer movement.

Sven's Strike and Mudie's Duel at the head of the formation, consisting primarily of the Hyperion-Gs, were first to open fire, while Athrun's Knight Saviour accelerated, rejoining with the Joule Team's other mobile suits. The enemy defensive line began to crumble under the combined assault.

In the control room at Daedalus Base, the tension was growing and some were starting to be afraid, as their three most powerful units were destroyed.

- "Requiem is at 61% charge." came the report. "Destroy Units 2 and 3 eliminated. And we're detecting two additional enemy mobile suits in sector 6!"

- "We've lost contact with the Eighth Mobile Group at Fauré!" announced another. "And the enemy has caught our main force in a pincer movement - our defensive line is falling!"

- "We're firing Requiem, now!" Jibril ordered. "We can't wait for full power, and 61% is more than enough to tear right through them."

- "Yes, sir." Shaw replied, and he issued orders accordingly.

Meanwhile at Fauré, a team of GOUF Ignited succeeded in getting past the enemy's line of defense and, using their machines' "Slayer Whip" heat rods, disable its positron reflector. Then they fired on the ship itself, destroying it.

With a gap in the colony's defenses finally opened, the Alliance and ZAFT ships opened fire directly at the colony, targeting the thrusters along that side and destroying them.

The result was that the colony slipped out of alignment, which was detected instantly at Daedalus.

- "Just fire it!" Jibril ordered. "At least we can eliminate the forces around Fauré."

- "But if we do that, sir...that's it; we'd never be able to charge it again in time to fire." Shaw protested.

- "I don't care. Fire it anyway." Jibril railed. Then added in an undertone. "We'll escape in the meantime."

- "I see. Fire one last shot as we surrender the base, and then slip away in the confusion. Like you did at Heaven's Base, sir?" Shaw replied.

- "As long as I am alive, there will always be a chance for victory." Jibril said, choosing to ignore the dig about Heaven's Base. "You and I will make our way to Arzachel, and then try again."

Meanwhile, the Minerva and Alakhshya fired their positron cannons into the base, leveling a fairly large section of it and skimming away that much more of the enemy defenses.

- "Come on!" Yzak railed. "Our Lunar Fleet's hanging tough - we're on the verge of winning this!"

- "The Saviour and the Legend have linked up with the Hirschfelder and the other ships' mobile suit teams!" came the report from Abby. "The Destiny and Impulse Gundams are still closing in on the target!"

- "Good! Just a little longer, guys, and we've won!"

However, the Blast Impulse was facing heavy resistance from enemy mobile suits, and even a few of the new Euclid mobile armors, as well as a Gells-Ghe.

- "Come on!" Lunamaria railed as she blocked an attack, then fired a barrage from the Blast Impulse's missile launchers that took out several mobile suits.

Behind her, Stella's Storm Impulse did likewise, then using the "Caliburn" beam swords attacked the Gells-Ghe, cutting off both its arms, then finishing it off with a volley from the "Fenris" beam cannons.

At that moment, the Destiny moved in and opened fire, the attack catching both Euclids by surprise and destroying them before they had a chance to activate their positron reflectors.

"Shinn!" Lunamaria exclaimed as the Destiny linked up with the Storm Impulse.

- "Just keep going." He replied. "The access tunnel is up ahead - Stella and I will cover you."

At that moment, a Zamza-Zah closed in and opened fire on the two Impulse Gundams, which were forced to scatter to avoid the attack.

"BACK OFF!" Shinn roared. "That's enough out of you, you bastard."

As he spoke, he charged, the single Moralltach ignited and held straight in front of him as he accelerated full speed towards the Zamza-Zah. The mobile armor ignited its positron reflector, but the blade punched through it, burying itself deep in the mobile armor's main body, straight down its length. He pulled the blade upwards, incinerating the cockpit block and crew, and the mobile armor fell.

- "There it is!" Lunamaria said as she spotted her target, defended by a Gells-Ghe. She held her shield defensively in front of her, and the Storm Impulse slipped past, firing its weapons at the mobile armor, which ignited its positron reflector.

Taking advantage of the distraction, Lunamaria slipped into the access tunnel, as from above the Destiny fired on the Gells-Ghe, obliterating it with a salvo from its powerful beam cannons.

- "Come on, Stella! We'll take out the Base command center."

- "Right."

Their mission accomplished, the Destiny and Storm Impulse accelerated away from their target deeper into the base, where they linked up with Rey's Legend, while the Knight Saviour and the Alliance mobile suits continued to engage the enemy forces.

"Requiem operational charge is 63%. Power flow stable, force field formation confirmed." Came the report deep inside Daedalus's control center as the great barrel of the mighty weapon opened. "Detonation circuit S116, Breaker in effect. Capacitor T-5 online, capacity at 70%; Primary extractor is on standby. Seal disengaged, commencing countdown. Firing in T minus 35."

At that very moment, Lunamaria's Blast Impulse broke through into a point deep inside the base, near the very bottom of the barrel of the Requiem cannon.

She located the control room, deployed every one of the Blast Impulse's weapons, and opened fire directly at it.

At the same time, Shinn's Destiny entered the dock nearest the base command center, stowing his Moralltach and deploying his powerful beam cannons. He opened fire, systematically destroying every ship he saw, one after another. The succession of explosions triggered a chain reaction that spread through that sector of the base until it reached the control center, which exploded as well.

Shinn exited the dock and shot upwards, converging on Stella's Impulse and Rey's Legend when, suddenly, he heard a hail from Stella.

"Shinn! Over there!" She exclaimed as she recognized the Nana Buluku.

The Legend and Destiny both shot towards the distant vessel as it left from a separate dock, and Rey deployed his machine's DRAGOONs, firing a barrage that struck the ship's engine blocks, as well as targeting each "Gottfried" beam cannon emplacement and the two panels on the front sides of the bow where its positron cannons were stored.

The ship was left dead in the water and weaponless, except for its missile launchers. However before it could fire them, the Destiny closed in and Shinn saw, through the bridge window, two officers and one man in civilian attire.

"It's him - Jibril!" He exclaimed.

He drew the single "Moralltach" Anti-Ship Beam Saber, ignited it, and activated his Voilure Lumière, then charged the ship. The blade clove the bridge in two, incinerating every man there, including Jibril.

Then he fired a final attack from his own powerful beam cannons, deep into the bowels of the vessel. The attack detonated the missiles stored in their launch tubes in the ship, causing catastrophic damage to the hull, which split in half. The two halves of the stricken ship crashed onto the surface of the moon, where they exploded.
Of the ship's crew, there were no survivors.

Shinn opened up a communication to the Minerva. "Enemy vessel destroyed. Jibril was confirmed to be onboard. He's dead."

The battle was over. With the base control center destroyed, and the bulk of the enemy force decimated, the few that remained surrendered.

Shinn, Athrun, Rey, Stella and Lunamaria returned to the Minerva, where they were met by thunderous applause from their shipmates. The ship had taken heavy damage from enemy attacks during the battle, but it was still in one piece, mobile, and by some miracle had had no serious injuries onboard. The Voltaire and Rousseau, which crossed the base to rejoin with the team flagship, were even more battered.

The Alliance mobile suits returned to the Alakhshya, and Captain Badgiruel announced that they would return to her homeport of Artemis, rather than Theophilus, for repairs.

Rey congratulated Shinn, but then said that he would return to the Hirschfelder, which was headed to rendezvous with the Lunar fleet as it returned from battle at the Relay Station, where the Alliance fleet had been annihilated.

"That sucks." Shinn said when he learned the news. "I was hoping you would stick around."

- "I think we'll be seeing each other again." Rey said. "Chairman Durendal has said to me that he intends for the Minerva to join with the lunar fleet."

- "That's all well and good." Yzak said. "But we took a hell of a beating during this one. I've been in touch with Chairman Durendal, and he's given me approval to proceed, along with the Voltaire and Rousseau, to the PLANTs for repairs and resupply. We will link up with the fleet once those are completed."

- "Fair enough." Rey said, then he turned to Shinn. "I guess I'll see you then."

- "I can't wait." Shinn said, smiling warmly, and he embraced his best friend. The two parted, and Rey boarded his machine, which left to return to the Hirschfelder.

The Alakhshya and her escorts had already left. And, as he returned to the bridge, and he opened up communications with the even-more battered Voltaire and Rousseau, Yzak reflected that it was high time they were headed home, as the Joule Team set course for her flagship's home port.

Onboard the Gondwana, Durendal pondered the results of the battle. He was still waiting for a formal report from his two finest pilots, but as the ZAFT Lunar Orbital Fleet began to regroup and prepare to return to the moon, he knew that his immediate objective had been achieved. He leaned back in his great armchair, an enigmatic smile playing around the corners of his thin mouth as he contemplated this new shift in the state of world affairs, and what it meant for his objectives.

"Thank you, Teivel Jibril." He said aloud, though nobody could hear. Nor were they supposed to. "Good bye, and good riddance."

Now, he would soon be ready to make his final move. And then, the sorry state of affairs that had so long plagued this world would be at last ended.