AUTHOR'S NOTE:The second and final part of the last battle, which corresponds roughly to Phase 50 of the original series.
Not much to say, but read on, enjoy, and please review.
PHASE 35: The Final Battlefield
Lunar orbit, en route to Daedalus
While Athrun led the forces under his command towards the Relay Station, the rest of the fleet under Yzak's command set a course towards the moon, their intent being to attack the base itself and to destroy the cannon.
They knew the base would be heavily defended. Probably, there would not be very many ships; the maximum they might find there was about twenty, roughly the same number as the ZAFT Second Home Defense Fleet, Second Battle Group, which was under Yzak's command for this operation.
But in addition to the Second and his own three ships, Yzak was accompanied by two Orb Union Izumo-class carriers, which were superior to the Nazca and Laurasia-classes in firepower, better-armored, and carried more than twice the number of mobile suits; The Minerva itself had a slightly lower carrying capacity, but was faster and better armed, as well as equally heavily armored.
Then he had the Alliance's Agamemnon-class Ectorius and its escorts. And deadlier still, the stealth heavy assault carrier Alakhshya, which at that moment was making a covert approach, on the Minerva's flank, its Mirage Colloid Stealth System active.
However, the enemy had the Gondwana. Though relatively lightly armed for its size, the gigantic mega-carrier could carry up to five hundred mobile suits on its own. This meant that Yzak and his allies would face a mobile suit force at least twice the size of their own. It was very unlikely, Yzak thought, that they would be able to get out without taking heavy losses. Their best bet would be for Athrun to rapidly deal with the relay station and move in to reinforce them.
'This is going to be fucking tough.' Yzak thought to himself.
Because of the numerical advantage of the enemy mobile suit force, Yzak, Colonel Kisaka, and Captain Badgiruel had decided to split their forces and attack on multiple fronts, in order to prevent the defending fleet from concentrating their forces in a single area and overwhelming them with sheer numbers.
Commander Drake, the commander of the Second, would attack the base from the south, while Admiral Grant of the Ectorius would lead his forces, accompanied by the Kusanagi and the Susanoo, in an attack from the north. The Alakhshya would be held in reserve, flying cloaked in formation above and astern of the Minerva, which would attack from a third direction shortly after Drake and Grant launched the initial two-pronged attack.
Once Athrun had eliminated the relay station, he would lead his forces directly towards the moon to reinforce the forces already attacking.
"Distance 9000 to target." Bart Heim announced from his station monitoring the ship's sensors.
- "Upgrade to Condition Red." Yzak ordered.
- "Going to Condition Red." Abby announced across the ship's PA system. "Going to Condition Red. All pilots board your machines and stand by for launch."
As the announcement rang out, the ship's thirteen pilots - Commander Joule excepted - stood. Shinn, Lunamaria and Stella were out the doors first, followed by the other pilots of the ship's mobile suit force – two DOM Troopers, four GOUF Igniteds, four ZAKU Warriors.
Lunamaria and Stella headed for the central catapult, where they each boarded their respective Core Splendor.
Shinn boarded his machine and initiated the Destiny's startup sequence, then waited for the order to launch.
"This time," Shinn muttered as he too counted down the minutes to the attack, "We're going to end this – Once and for all."
On the Minerva's bridge, preparations were continuing as well. Yzak checked that the Voltaire and Rousseau were in position to port and starboard of his own ship. The three vessels were moving at very low altitude to evade detection for as long as possible. His sensors could not see the Alakhshya, but he knew it was in position as well.
"Load Fafnirs in bow tubes 1 through 4, Neidhart in all missile launchers. Activate Tristans and Isoldes." Yzak ordered.
- "All weapons systems active, all tubes loaded." Chen Jian Ye replied at the ship's combat systems console.
- "Stand by to fire on my command!" Yzak replied, glancing at the chronograph on his monitor.
In the Gondwana's control room, the gigantic mega-carrier's crew was on edge as they watched the approach of a sizable fleet closing in towards the nearest Relay Station.
"Hirschfelder reports they are entering combat with enemy vessels at Relay Station 1." The CIC reported to the commander. "They are reporting twenty ZAFT vessels, plus one Orb carrier and an Alliance strike group, as well as the Eternal."
- "The Eternal is there?" Durendal mused when he heard. "That is intriguing. I have to wonder where that vessel has been these past four years."
Suddenly, the CIC made a report that changed the situation, as Daedalus itself came under attack.
- "Enemy vessels detected! Yellow 135, distance 3,000. Checking thermal patterns…two Orb Union Izumo-class, one Alliance Agamemnon-class, plus ten Nelson-class and Drake-class." The CIC reported. "Also detecting a second formation attacking from Yellow 535, distance 3,200…they're ZAFT vessels, sir! Confirming ten Nazca-class and Laurasia-class!"
- "Launch mobile suit teams!" Captain Abbot, the Gondwana's commanding officer, ordered. "Escort ships move to intercept, prepare for anti-ship and anti-mobile suit combat."
- "Multiple launch transients detected, sir! Missiles incoming!"
- "Intercept them!"
What point-defenses were available were immediately activated even as the Gondwana's twelve-ship escort fleet split into two groups, each formation moving to engage the incoming enemy fleets even as they launched their mobile suits. At the same time, the mobile suits onboard the Gondwana herself began to launch, with more than a hundred units launching to support the thirty-six machines that were deploying from the two escort groups.
Meanwhile, the Orb Fleet on the one hand, and the ten vessels of the ZAFT First Home Defense Fleet, Second Battle Group opened fire on the enemy formation, with the Alliance ships unleashing a second barrage of missiles, followed by a volley of cannonfire from one direction, while the ZAFT ships unleashed their own artillery.
The Daedalus defense fleets thus found themselves caught in a crossfire between two numerically superior forces, with disastrous results.
Three of the twelve ships escorting the Gondwana were destroyed in the initial barrage, while four more sustained varying degrees of damage.
The remaining ships counterattacked immediately, and the Second Group lost two ships to the attack, while the Alliance Forces lost one of their Drake-class escorts.
Far behind the Daedalus Fleet's defensive lines, the Gondwana alone remained unassailed, with Commander Abbot directing the defense.
At the same time, the two enemy mobile suit forces closed in on each other, and at last the two formations crashed together.
Each leading a five-unit team off the Voltaire and Rousseau, Dearka Elsman and Shiho Hahnenfuss - he as ever in his trusty Gunner ZAKU Warrior, she in a two-tone dark-blue GOUF Ignited - led the assault.
The enemy had a two-to-one advantage in numbers, but many of the pilots were recent recruits, whose experience was limited to the rare engagements to have occurred in space since this new war began.
Conversely, the Second and the Joule Team had relatively far more experienced pilots, many of them veterans of the First War.
So when a large formation of enemy mobile suits closed in, trying to move towards the ships, Dearka's team took up a position to the rear, supported by the point-defense systems and missiles of the Voltaire, and opened fire on the approaching units, cutting off their advance even as three of them were cut down in the initial assault.
Then Shiho's team split up and attacked, from the sides, leaving the enemy formation with only two choices: retreat or die.
The enemy forces fired, targeting the six ZAKUs led by Dearka, but the formation defended, blocking the assault, then counterattacked even as Shiho's six mobile suits opened fire as well.
The attacking forces scattered, but fully one third of the twenty-four unit group were eliminated in that assault.
Drawing the "Carnwennan" beam sword, Shiho closed in and attacked, overwhelming the lead unit and severing both its arms, leaving it incapable of further combat, while her wing provided cover fire, and Dearka's six Blaze and Gunner ZAKUs laid down a withering artillery barrage.
Within minutes, the enemy units were all defeated.
At the same time, the two Izumo-class ships had launched their own mobile suits, a total of thirty-two Astrays and Murasames, together with almost eighty Daggers and Windams.
Half of the slower, less advanced Daggers were tasked for rear-line support using the Doppelhorn and Launcher Strikers, along with a quarter of the Windams. Of the rest, the majority were equipped with Aile Strikers, giving them speed and maneuverability almost on par with the GOUF Ignited.
Leading the charge, the Orb forces tore into the defending mobile suit forces, the faster and more agile Murasames evading many of the enemy attacks. But despite their skill and the superiority of their machines, the sheer numbers of the Daedalus defense forces made it difficult for them to break through, something which was clear to Captain Natarle Badgiruel as she stood on the bridge of the Alakhshya, watching the timer on her monitor count down.
"Phase 1 is under way. 360 seconds to Phase 2." Her XO announced.
- "Thank you, Commander Valentine." She replied. Then she hit a button on her console. "Major, what's the status of our mobile suit team?"
- "All units are standing by for take-off." Major Sven Cal Bayan replied evenly from the Strike Noir's cockpit. His machine, as well as Mudie's Blu Duel, were in line for launch as soon as they got the all-clear.
- "Good." Natarle answered. Then she glanced up.
"A stalemate, already." She commented. "Our ships have the advantage and most of our pilots are more experienced, but their numbers are overwhelming... I'm starting to wonder if maybe we might not make it out alive."
She shook her head. She had faced severe odds before. And that kind of thinking had no place on the battlefield anyway.
There was far too much at stake. She watched the counter as the seconds ticked by. 5...4...3...2...1...zero.
It was time.
"Activate Lohengrin one and two, Gottfrieds one through six. Load Sledgehammers in tubes 1 through 20, Korinthos in 21 through 38." She ordered. "Prepare to deactivate Mirage Colloid once we open fire."
Her orders were immediately carried out.
"Lohengrins 1 and 2, FIRE!" She ordered.
Two blasts of energy tore across space, seemingly from nowhere, and into the formation of defending ZAFT ships. A massive barrage of "Sledgehammer" anti-ship missiles followed, then the Alakhshya, even as its Mirage Colloid Stealth System gradually deactivated, revealing the jet-black vessel, opened fire with its six dual 225cm "Gottfried" high-energy beam cannons.
At the same time, from its position below and slightly ahead of the Alakhshya, the Minerva unleashed its own barrage, from the bow Isolde, three Tristans, and forty-four missile launch tubes, discharging four MMI-M382S "Fafnir-S" heavy missiles from its bow tubes, and a massive volley of "Neidhart" heavy missiles from the five four-tube launchers mounted along each side of its hull.
The result could only be described as a massacre. Of the Daedalus escort fleet's nine remaining ships, four were completely obliterated by the assault, and two of the ones that managed to survive the onslaught suffered significant damage. The attack also destroyed more than thirty mobile suits caught in the line of fire.
"Launch mobile suit team!" Natarle ordered, and the Alakhshya's four linear catapults opened, disgorging the Strike Noir, Blu Duel, and two Hyperion-Gs. Two more Hyperion-Gs and the ship's six Windams - two Doppelhorns, four Aile - followed, immediately attacking the enemy force.
Instantly the enemy responded, with a formation of mixed ZAKU Warriors and GOUF Igniteds, led by a single DOM Trooper, attack the approaching Alliance forces.
The Aile Windams and Dagger scattered, while the Doppelhorn and Launcher units opened fire from the rear, forcing the attacking enemy units to break off their attack. Only the DOM Trooper continued moving, using its beam shield to block the attack and close in on the rear-line units.
That's when Sven and Mudie struck, opening fire on the DOM from behind - he with his Strike Noir's twin linear cannons, she with a 35cm "Gáe Bulg" hyper bazooka. A weapon initially developed for her machine's predecessor, the original GAT-X102 Duel Gundam, and never deployed. Not normally a weapon used by the fast, close-combat-oriented Blu Duel, but necessary in this instance.
The DOM avoided the attacks easily, then turned to counter. Based on the powerful bazooka, its pilot determined that the wingless Duel is both the greater threat and the easier target, and accelerates, drawing its own beam saber.
Mudie, a sneer of contempt on her face, tosses the bazooka aside and engages the Blu Duel's array of thrusters, literally vaulting over the DOM, then instantly deployed her two beam guns and fired at the DOM from directly above, into its main body, causing catastrophic internal damage. Sven then activated the 30mm gatling gun mounted to his machine's shield, which poured a hail of depleted-uranium shells into its torso, killing the pilot and consummating the machine's destruction.
Meanwhile, the four Hyperion-Gs engaged against the seven enemy machines, blocking attacks using their "Armure Lumière" lightwave shields before countering with the powerful "Forfanterie" cannons. The nimble GOUF Igniteds avoided the attacks easily, only to then be engaged by the equally maneuverable Aile Windams and Daggers.
The ZAKU Warriors were not so fortunate, and within a short period of time the entire formation was destroyed.
The 501st had taken no losses, nor even any damage. Reorganizing their formation, the twelve mobile suits resumed combat, moving in and continuing to engage the enemy forces.
At the same time, the same order was issued by Yzak from the bridge of the Minerva, and instantly the three catapults opened, with the Destiny Gundam being the first to launch from the starboard catapult, while the two Impulse Gundams deployed slowly from the central catapult, with Shinn hanging back to provide cover while the two Impulses docked and prepared for launch.
Behind them, the other ten mobile suits - two Blaze DOM Troopers, four GOUF Igniteds, and an equal number of ZAKU Warriors - launched as well. Two of the ZAKUs equipped Blaze Wizards, while the other two had Gunner Wizards. The ten mobile suits formed up in two lines, with the four ZAKUs to the rear and the DOMs and GOUFs in the front, and immediately moved in and began to fire on the enemy mobile suit forces.
Meanwhile, the three Gundams adopted an inverted wedge formation, with Lunamaria's Blast Impulse in the rear to provide cover fire, and the faster Destiny and Storm Impulse at the front.
In the old days of the First Bloody Valentine War, before the rollout of the GAT-01 Strike Dagger, it used to be said that it took five Möbius mobile armor units to be able to even stand a chance of engaging a single GINN in equal terms. When a twelve-mobile suit formation from the Daedalus defense force engaged, their pilots learned the hard way that even at five-to-one, they did not stand a chance against the likes of the Destiny Gundam or Stella's Storm Impulse.
When the enemy force attacked, the three Gundams instantly activated their "Validus Fulgor" beam shields, blocking the attacks easily.
Then, the Destiny and the Storm Impulse moved into action, as Shinn drew a single "Moralltach" heavy anti-ship beam sword, while Stella drew both "Caliburn" beam swords.
Shinn first engaged a GOUF Ignited, which tried to parry the Moralltach using its Carnwennan beam sword. But the more powerful Moralltach overwhelmed the enemy unit's weapon, cutting the blade in half, and Shinn followed up with a point-blank shot to the main camera with the "Palma Fiocina", before severing both arms, then cutting the GOUF in half just below the waist, low enough to sever both legs without destroying the cockpit.
Then he deployed the twin "Megálos Kerberos" beam cannons and fired, destroying two of the attacking mobile suits.
Stella, meanwhile, found herself engaged by a second GOUF Ignited. But her Impulse had two blades to the enemy's one, and even as she parried his attack, her second weapon slipped through a gap in the GOUF's defenses and thrust straight into its torso, cutting the cockpit in half and killing the pilot.
Alarms rang in her cockpit as two of the six remaining mobile suits fired on the Impulse. With no time to bring her beam shield to bear, she instead spun to face the incoming attackers and flung the crippled GOUF into the line of fire of their attacks. The damaged mobile suit worked as an impromptu shield, blocking the beam from striking the Impulse, and the attacks caused it to explode.
Surging through the explosion, she fired the "Fenris" cannons at one, then bisected the other with the Caliburn. Stowing both blades, she drew her beam rifle and brought her beam shield to bear as two of the four remaining attackers fired at the Impulse. The counterattack was instantaneous, a volley of shots from her beam rifle that dismembered one of the enemy machines.
When the other tried to move into mêlée range, she ignited the "Beagalltach" beam blade, parrying the attack, then countered with a point-blank rifle shot to the cockpit.
The other two turned their sights on Shinn, who activated the Destiny's Voilure Lumière and instantly evaded the shots they fired at him, charging at the first with the Moralltach and impaling it, before turning on the second and splitting it in two from head to hip.
The last two machines in the formation were a pair of Gunner ZAKU Warriors, which managed to slip past the two Gundams and set their sights on Lunamaria's Blast Impulse, firing their powerful "Orthros" beam cannons.
Lunamaria dodged one attack, blocking the other with the beam shield, then countered with the "Kerberos", dispatching both easily.
"Let's continue." Shinn said firmly, and the three machines, resuming their original formation, continued to engage as more enemy machines approached.
Suddenly, as Shinn was looking at their target, he saw that the barrel of the "Requiem" cannon was opening, and that the defending ships were shifting their positions.
He realized they were about to fire.
"Minerva!" He hailed on an encrypted communications line. "They're preparing to fire Requiem!"
Yzak heard the warning, and immediately ordered his own forces to retreat and exit the line of fire.
However, when the cannon at last fired, two of the Alliance's Nelson-class ships were caught in the blast, as were two of the Second Group's Laurasia-class ships.
Two of the Daedalus Fleet's damaged ships, unable to retreat fast enough, were also destroyed, as were roughly twenty mobile suits on either side.
"That BASTARD!" Yzak yelled, slamming his fist into his console. "He fired before even his own forces were all out of the way."
He suddenly glanced at the secondary monitor that showed the status of the battle at the Relay Station. They were too far to be able to communicate effectively with Athrun's forces, but he hoped they would be able to evade the attack.
As he carefully observed the relay station itself, he realized it was out of alignment. It would be destroyed by the cannon's own attack.
He smiled grimly. At least this meant that Athrun would be on his way soon.
However, they were about to have other problems...
Onboard the Gondwana, Rey Za Burrel boarded his machine, the ZGMF-X66R Legend Gundam.
He activated the mobile suit, reflecting as he did so that regardless of who the enemy was, he would fight, to defend the Gondwana and Chairman Durendal.
He knew very well that of all the forces presently attacking, there was only one machine that was even remotely capable of keeping up with his Legend, and that this meant he would have to face Shinn in battle, and probably to kill him.
He barely hesitated. If that was what he had to do, he would do it.
Finally, he had clearance to launch.
"This is Rey Za Burrel." He said over the comms. "Legend Gundam, I'm taking off!"
The Legend Gundam shot forward from the catapult, and Rey instantly activated the Voilure Lumière, which surged in a flash of blue light, as the Legend accelerated, its powerful beam rifle in hand, into the approaching forces.
A group of enemy mobile suits - Alliance units, he saw, plus a handful of Orb Murasames - moved in and engaged the Legend, firing missiles and beam rifles.
The Legend's 17.5mm CIWS spun to life, intercepting the missiles, and he easily dodged or blocked the enemy attacks using the Legend's superior speed and maneuverability, supplemented by his two "Solidus Fulgor" beam shields.
He counterattacked by activating his DRAGOON System, deploying the six GDU-7X2 heavy weapon pods, which unleashed a torrent of beam cannonfire that obliterated the entire enemy formation.
Rey then deactivated the Voilure Lumière and contacted four mobile suits from the Daedalus defense force, using his authority as a member of FAITH to order them to form up on the Legend and move into combat.
Onboard the Gondwana, Commander Abbot watched the battle unfold with some concern.
On the one hand, their numerically superior mobile suit forces, which still numbered more than seven hundred, were preventing the enemy's advance - mostly. On the other, despite the losses inflicted, the enemy still had the advantage in terms of number of ships, an advantage that had gotten only greater since the carnage wrought on their battle line by the two enemy flagships.
Their own forces could not, despite their numbers, get through the enemy lines to attack the ships directly. The few that had had been insufficiently numerous, and the enemy was being canny enough to hold back approximately one third of their mobile suit forces to cover the ships, allowing them to obliterate the few small formations that had broken through the first attacking line.
Additionally, the Orb and Alliance forces in one area, and the Joule Team in another, led by their respective Gundams, were making significant progress in hindering their own forces and might even break through.
The deployment of the Legend, which had engaged the Orb and Alliance forces, had started to turn the tide, however. And despite his misgivings, Abbott remained confident that they would ultimately be able to win. The key was to maintain the stalemate, to make this a battle of attrition by preventing the enemy Gundams from using their technological and performance advantage to penetrate the defensive lines.
If they could do that, the battle was won.
However, the conditions of the battlefield were once more about to change, as the Gondwana's CIC reported the arrival of still more ships.
"Sir! Detecting a new enemy formation closing in from Green 430."
- "From the Relay Station?" Abbott asked.
- "Yes, sir." the CIC replied. "Checking thermal patterns...two Orb Izumo-class, four Alliance vessels, and a number of Nazca- and Laurasia-class ships. Thirty-four vessels total, sir."
Abbot blanched. 34 more ships meant, at minimum, two hundred additional mobile suits. Still not enough to even the odds, but the more ships the enemy had, the greater the chance of their breaking through.
- "What's their target?" Abbott asked.
- "It looks like they're closing in on Requiem directly." the response came. "But they are just outside the cannon's line of fire."
Abbot swore. He had considered ordering the cannon fired at the approaching ships, which would by far have been the easiest solution.
But the enemy commander had preempted him by positioning his ships just outside the cannon's striking range, but still in a position to attack it directly.
- "Enemy vessel is deploying mobile suits, sir!" the CIC reported.
- "Redirect the Adnam Team and the Kingston Team. Send them to engage the enemy forces!" he ordered.
Even as they closed, Murrue Ramius's Tsukiyomi succeeded in breaking through the enemy lines, exploiting a gap in the defense caused as a result of the damage wrought by the Minerva and Alakhshya. Before the enemy ships were able to move in and close the gap, she targeted the closed barrel of the Requiem cannon.
"Lohengrins, FIRE!" she ordered, and the ship's two twin "Lohengrin" positron blaster cannons unleashed a torrent of destructive energy that obliterated several enemy mobile suits that were attempting to attack the ship, before directly striking the barrel of the weapon.
To no avail. A triple-layered positron reflector field activated over the closed barrel, blocking the ship's attack. At the same time, more enemy forces moved in, and Murrue ordered the ship to fall back even as the Argenteuil and its escorts fired into the enemy formation, while half of the two hundred and thirty mobile suits it carried moved in to attack the enemy forces.
Leading the charge were Hilda Harken, Herbert von Reinhardt, and Mars Simeon in their DOM Troopers, as well as the Knight Saviour Gundam and the Akatsuki.
"Hilda!" Athrun ordered. "Lead the main force to reinforce the 501st in Area E."
- "Yes, sir!" Hilda replied. Though she had come to battle as a pilot of Orb, she now found herself under the command of a legend: Athrun Zala, the greatest pilot in the history of ZAFT. And the former fiancé of Lacus Clyne.
Neither she, nor her men, had any issues fighting under his orders, and their response was swift.
Athrun, meanwhile, linked up with Cagalli and the Kinshu Team, which headed, escorted by a handful of GOUF Igniteds, in a different direction, his intention being to reinforce the Joule Team.
He had seen on his monitor the launch of a fast new model, which was tearing apart their lines, and guessed it to be the Legend. He knew that eventually it and the Destiny would meet, and he was determined to reinforce Shinn.
A formation of enemy ZAKU Warriors attacked, firing beam rifles, "Orthros" beam cannons, and missiles at the approaching mobile suits. The six GOUF Igniteds opened fire, laying down a wall of suppressive fire using their forearm-mounted "Draupnir" machineguns, supported by the CIWS of the Orb Murasames and the Knight Saviour, which eliminated the missiles.
Cagalli's Akatsuki absorbed several enemy shots, destroying one of the Gunner ZAKU Warriors with its own redirected attack, then fired her own beam rifle into the formation, even as Athrun skillfully shot off the limbs of one of the enemy machines as it sought to engage his machine in close-quarters combat.
Alarms rang suddenly as the approaching formation found itself under attack, and Athrun swore as he realized that the Legend had struck.
He instantly activated his beam shield and took the Saviour defensive, while their escorts did likewise, with mixed success. Two of the GOUFs and one of the Murasames were destroyed.
Cagalli's Akatsuki, protected by its Yata-no-Kagami armor, easily shrugged off the assault, as the enemy shots were absorbed and reflected.
Rey noticed this and withdrew his remotes, preventing any of them from being destroyed by the redirected attacks.
Then he deployed the two GDU-3X beam spike pods, which he knew would overwhelm those defenses, when his own sensors alerted him to an incoming attack, and he withdrew the remotes to prevent their being destroyed by the twin attack from the Knight Saviour's "Amfortas Kai" beam cannons.
He turned his beam rifle on the Saviour and immediately attacked, but Athrun shifted, avoiding the attack by millimeters, and countered with the "Hyper Fortis" beam cannons.
Rey activated his beam shield, blocking the attack, then launched the six back-mounted heavy weapon pods, which moved to surround the Saviour.
Before Rey could fire, Athrun accelerated, drawing one of his two "Vajra Kai" beam sabers, and aimed a rising diagonal slash across the Legend's torso. The six remotes turned to track the Saviour, and even as Rey activated his beam shield and parried the attack, fired on the Saviour, with the Legend moving back out of the line of fire.
Athrun withdrew and went defensive, using his machine's high speed and maneuverability, combined with his powerful beam shield, to avoid the enemy attacks.
Then he moved in again, with another hard thrust at the Legend.
Rey drew one of his own "Vajra Kai" beam sabers, blocking the attack.
"You're out of your league, traitor." Rey spat as he blocked, then fell back and attempted to raise his beam rifle.
At near point-blank range, there was no way the Saviour could possibly evade.
Nor did he. Athrun shifted laterally, then brought his blade down, bisecting the weapon, before unleashing a devastatingly swift horizontal strike with his second beam saber, which Rey only narrowly avoided.
Cagalli, meanwhile, was engaged by the six GOUF Igniteds that had been Rey's escort, which were all armed with handheld gunlaunchers and, in one case, a 500mm recoilless cannon - shell-firing weapons, against which the Akatsuki's armor was worse than useless.
Fortunately, the seven remaining escort units were similarly armed, and when she narrowly avoided one attack, two of the GOUF Igniteds closed in on their brethren, firing their own weapons. Then the Murasames circled from around, catching the enemy formation in a pincer movement. With the enemy units preoccupied, Cagalli deployed the Akatsuki's "Oowashi" beam cannons and fired, destroying two of them. The escorts eliminated the others.
Seeing this, Rey deployed his eight GDU-5X2 medium weapon pods, which encircled the formation and fired.
All but two of the enemy mobile suits were able to avoid the attacks, and the two machines - one Murasame and one GOUF Ignited - were destroyed.
At that moment, another formation, consisting of two DOM Troopers, four GOUF Ignited, and four ZAKU Warriors, moved in.
Suddenly, even as Cagalli fired into the approaching formation, another attack blasted in from above and behind, and looking up, Cagalli recognized the Destiny and Impulse Gundams.
One of the DOM Troopers and two of the ZAKU Warriors were destroyed, while the others narrowly avoided both attacks.
The three machines split up, with the two Impulse Gundams converging on the Akatsuki, while the Destiny accelerated and peeled off to engage the Legend.
"Shinn!" Athrun hailed when he recognized the Destiny.
Rey likewise recognized his former best friend, and immediately peeled off when the Destiny fired its beam rifle at the Legend, forcing him back.
"I don't really give a damn if Athrun decides to betray the PLANTs again." Rey commented coldly. "But I never would've thought that you of all people would be a traitor."
- "Who's a traitor?" Shinn retorted, angrily but at the same time, sorrowful.
- "Anyone who opposes Chairman Durendal." Rey replied, and he deployed his DRAGOONs, firing on the Destiny.
Shinn activated the "Validus Fulgor" and "Voilure Lumière", evading or blocking the attacks. Rey, however, had anticipated this, and one of the two beam spike pods shot straight in towards the Destiny.
Shinn, seeing the attack, ejected the assault shield and threw it into the path of the incoming remote, which tore through it, barely slowing down. But that was enough, as Shinn drew a "Shining Edge" and activated it, the saber blade bisecting the remote, destroying it.
At the same time, the Saviour threw its own "Flash Edge II" beam boomerang towards the Legend, but Rey tasked his DRAGOONs to intercept, destroying the weapon, then firing at the Saviour, which was forced to evade.
Then Rey deployed all fifteen of his remaining remotes, firing a massive barrage into the formation of mobile suits.
The Storm Impulse was, at that moment, engaging one of the two DOM Troopers, and when her sensors detected the incoming attack, Stella shoved the Impulse upwards, almost entirely avoiding the attack, which severed the Impulse's left leg.
The DOM Trooper, however, was not so fortunate, and the barrage obliterated it.
Lunamaria activated her beam shield, blocking the shots headed her way as well.
Then, when a number of the other machines closed in, she deployed and fired the "Kerberos" beam cannons and "Deluge" railguns, then followed up with a barrage from the Impulse's missile launchers, taking out three GOUF Igniteds.
"Damn," she muttered as she glanced down at her power gauge. "I'm getting pretty low on power - only 62% left."
In that split second, six of the Legend's remotes surrounded the Blast Impulse.
Rey knew that Lunamaria had to be the pilot of the Blast Impulse. But if she had chosen to side with the traitors, she too would pay the price, he mused dismissively as he mentally ordered the remotes to fire.
Stella saw what was happening, and broke off from her own opponent to move in, and at the last second Lunamaria too realized what was happening, and brought her beam shield to bear as she sought to evade the attack.
Too late. The barrage tore the Impulse to pieces, destroying the Blast Silhouette and severing the machine's limbs. Only the last-second activation of the "Validus Fulgor" prevented the destruction of the entire cockpit block, and even as the attacks tore her machine apart she pulled the lever that activated the ejection mechanism, jettisoning the chest and leg flyers.
"LUNAMARIA!" Shinn screamed, and he opened fire with every ranged weapon the Destiny had - directly at the Legend.
Rey activated his machine's Voilure Lumière, narrowly evading the attack. However, the salvo destroyed two of his DRAGOON pods.
The smoke cleared, and Shinn saw the Core Splendor.
So did Athrun, and he instantly tasked two of the GOUF Igniteds and two of the remaining Murasames to cover the Core Splendor's retreat until it reached the Minerva.
Then, the four mobile suits - Shinn's Destiny, the Knight Saviour, the Storm Impulse and the Akatsuki turned towards the Legend, and all four attacked.
Athrun unleashed the Knight Saviour's "Amfortas Kai" and "Hyper Fortis" cannons, while the Akatsuki fired the "Oowashi" beam cannons of the Akatsuki.
Rey, with the Legend's Voilure Lumière still active, evaded both attacks, but alarms rang in his cockpit as his movement placed him in the path of a direct attack from the Storm Impulse, firing its beam rifle and "Fenris" beam cannons. He blocked using his beam shield, then accelerated, using his machine's superior speed to close into close-quarters range, saber drawn, and he struck.
Stella, however, was ready, and she ejected the Chest Flyer, which shot upwards in a wide arc, moving above the Legend, even as the Leg Flyer fell.
Recognizing the move, Rey tasked two of his remaining four GDU-X72 remotes to fire, but too late. Stella fired, from above and behind, an attack that blasted off the two flexible binders on its backpack, destroying two of the remotes, even as the other two left their rack and fired.
The attack sheared off both of the Impulse's arms, taking with it the shield and beam rifle.
But the Impulse survived the attack, and steering the Leg Flyer, Stella moved it back into position and redocked, then fired again.
This time, Rey pivoted around, beam shield ignited, blocking the attack, and deployed his ten remaining remotes.
Stella, guessing what was coming, preempted him.
She jettisoned the Chest and Silhouette Flyers as well as the Leg Flyer, even as the ten remotes fired.
The barrage obliterated the Chest and Leg Flyers, but the Core Splendor escaped, as did the Storm Silhouette, and Stella opened fire on the Legend again with the "Fenris" cannons, then threw it into a top-speed charge towards the Legend, using the distraction to break away.
Rey blocked the attack, but then the Storm Silhouette slammed into the Legend and exploded, throwing the Legend off-balance for an instant. By the time he had stabilized, the Core Splendor was moving out, and the Destiny closed in, blocking off any chance of an attack.
"Athrun, Lady Cagalli!" Shinn asked. "Please, escort Stella to safety. I will deal with him."
Cagalli opened her mouth to protest, but the dangerous edge in Shinn's voice stopped her.
- "Right. Be careful." She said.
- "Thanks." Shinn replied. In the cockpit of the Knight Saviour, Athrun shook his head.
The handful of mobile suits they were engaging broke off and converged on the Core Splendor, but the faster Akatsuki and Saviour caught up easily.
Then, a green-white burst of energy soared into the enemy formation, destroying the remaining DOM Trooper, even as three more DOMs rushed in, Gigaplex bazookas held high.
Athrun recognized their colors, and he saw behind them Canard Pars's white Hyperion-G.
Some distance behind them, one of the Orb ships, with an escort of mixed Alliance and Orb mobile suit. After a second, he recognized Colonel Ramius's Tsukiyomi, and briefly wondered where the hell the Izumo was.
The three DOM Troopers encircled the formation and opened fire, even as Athrun accelerated.
"Stella, head towards the Tsukiyomi." He said. "It's much closer than the Minerva."
- "Roger that." She said, and altered course, moving past the four new arrivals.
Athrun, meanwhile, turned his attention back to the battle, as a pair of GOUF Igniteds swung their "Slayer Whip" at the Saviour, aiming for its arms. Athrun evaded both, then drew the Saviour's two beam rifles and fired, blasting off both heads, then he shot off the left arms of each one, taking their shield - and the "Carnwennan" sabers - away from them, leaving only one Draupnir to each machine. Then he blasted off the other arm.
"That's enough." He said.
"Fuck," Canard swore in the cockpit of his Hyperion-G. "Is there no end to these bastards?"
He leveled his beam submachine gun and fired at a ZAKU Warrior that was closing in on him, shredding its torso apart, when an alarm rang in his cockpit. Out of ammunition. And he had used his last spare magazine.
"Damn it." He swore. "He tossed the weapon aside, determined to keep fighting with what weapons he did have available.
Onboard the Gondwana, Captain Abbot looked concerned as Gilbert Durendal asked for a status report.
"A stalemate, sir." He said. "The Legend made a great deal of progress in forcing the enemy offense back, but it has been engaged by the Destiny. With it contained, I am afraid that the enemy is beginning to once again make some headway."
- "I see..." Durendal said pensively. "How much of the enemy formation is within striking range of Requiem?"
- "Ten, maybe fifteen percent." Abbot replied. "But more importantly, a very significant portion of our own mobile suit forces is also engaged against the enemy in the cannon's path."
- "How much?" Durendal asked.
- "Four of our ships. About 30 percent of our mobile suits." Abbot replied
- "Have the mobile suits begin to fall back - try to draw the enemy forces in." Durendal ordered. "And prepare to fire."
At that moment, however, the CIC spoke up.
"New enemy contacts detected!" He said. "Battleship class, looks like twelve of them. Distance 7,000, from Green 045."
- "WHAT?!" Abbot exclaimed.
- "Multiple launch transients detected! They're launching mobile suits - no, it looks like mobile armors!"
And indeed, the Agamemnon-class carriers Sarpedon and Idomeneus launched their full compliments of TS/MA-5B Euclid mobile armors, while twelve more took off from the Nelson-class escort ships, accompanied by 32 additional mobile suits.
Not one of the ships was completely intact, all of them showed signs of damage. But two full Carrier Strike Groups had been mustered from the small portion of Arzachel that had escaped destruction, and had been launched, many with skeleton crews, but all with full compliments of mobile weapons.
The ships opened fire, even as the battered Coalition Fleet, led by Yzak in the Minerva and Captain Badgiruel onboard the Alakhshya, did likewise.
Unable to prevent the advance of the fast, heavily armed and shielded mobile armors, the Daedalus Defense Fleet's lines began to crumble under the renewed assault, as gaps began to open in the defensive line, and the more numerous formations of Coalition ships began to close in and open fire on the Gondwana and its few remaining escorts.
In the Destiny's cockpit, Shinn, breathing heavily, looked over at his opponent. The Legend Gundam, almost a twin to his own Destiny, except for its massive firepower, whereas the Destiny had a balanced armament that made it equally adept at combat at all ranges.
"Why would you betray the Chairman, Shinn?" Rey asked.
- "Durendal is the one who betrayed us, when he opened fire on Arzachel and killed President Baum." Shinn replied. "Durendal doesn't want peace, he just wants to rule the Earth; he's no better than Jibril, why can't you see that?!"
- "Stand down, Shinn!" Rey demanded. "Otherwise, I'm going to kill you."
Shinn was shocked for a moment, that Rey, whom he'd loved as a brother, would be so willing to kill him.
'So be it.' He thought, resigning himself.
- "No, Rey." He said, and there was sorrow in his tone, but his resolve was firm nonetheless. "You won't."
He took a deep breath, and as he did he felt his awareness expand, his senses become more focused.
Then, Rey attacked, deploying the single remaining beam spike pod, as well as the ten weapon pods he had that remained. The ten pods fired, but Shinn was ready.
With the Destiny's Voilure Lumière engaged, he went totally defensive, activating both beam shields and blocking or evading the attacks. He spotted the beam spike moving towards him, turned to face it, and engaged the "Gryphon II" leg beam blades, then kicked the spike, throwing the weapon off course as blade met blade and the Destiny's superior momentum rocked the much lighter pod off-balance.
The follow-through was instantaneous, a point-blank shot from the "Palma Fiocina" that obliterated the pod.
Rey immediately countered with a second barrage from the DRAGOONs, and even as Shinn deployed the two "Megálos Kerberos" cannons a volley from the Legend's remotes destroyed them both, at the same time blasting one of the two "Moralltach" swords off its mount on his machine's back.
Shinn fell back, increasing the output of the Voilure Lumière, and once again went fully defensive, as he drew both the "Shining Edge" and threw them, one, then the other directly at the Legend.
As he'd expected, Rey tasked the DRAGOONs to intercept, and he fired the "Palma Fiocina" cannon and beam rifle, destroying two of them instantly.
"Stop this, Rey!" Shinn asked once again. "What Durendal is trying to do is not peace. It's a dictatorship!"
- "So what?" Rey retorted. "If anyone is going to attack the PLANTs, then they have to be destroyed."
- "The PLANTs have rejected Durendal's scheme!" Shinn yelled. "Are you going to destroy them because of it?"
Shinn's words took Rey by surprise, and for a second, his concentration wavered.
- "That's garbage!" He retorted. "Durendal has the only real solution! Destroying the weapons of all enemies of the PLANTs is the only way to end this!"
As he spoke, he tasked his six remaining DRAGOONs to surround the Destiny and fire, successfully blasting off the Destiny's right arm and left leg.
- "No, it's not!" Shinn replied. He accelerated still further, firing the beam rifle until he destroyed two more remotes, leaving four.
The remaining pods moved in and fired, hitting the rifle. Shinn tossed the weapon aside as another shot carved a deep gouge in the Destiny's head, even as the Legend closed in, sabers drawn.
However, while both machines had the exact same thrust, the Legend outweighed its twin by nearly ten tons, which meant that the Destiny was still faster and more agile. Despite the severely hindered AMBAC capabilities due to the loss of two limbs, that furthermore meant several tons less from its weight, for nearly the same amount of thrust.
Shinn fired the "Palma Fiocina" at the rapidly-approaching Legend's right arm, blasting its hand off, even as he tweaked the controls and the Destiny twisted.
He ignited the beam blade on his remaining leg, parrying the strike, even as he turned his beam gun on that arm and fired.
At that range, Rey could not evade, and the arm was blasted off at the shoulder. He retreated, tasked his four remaining remotes to open fire.
Shinn drew the sole remaining weapon he had left - the Moralltach. He adjusted his position, slammed the throttles to their stops, and charged, even as the four remotes fired, blasting off the Destiny's head, left wing, and remaining leg.
The Moralltach penetrated the Legend's armor in the lower torso, just a few feet below the cockpit. Straight through the reactor.
"Rey." He said haltingly, as he felt the tears begin to flow. "I honestly wish it hadn't come to this..." Shinn said. And he drew the single blade upwards, through the cockpit block, incinerating it and its pilot, even as the machine's stricken reactor exploded, ripping it apart.
And even as the explosion threw the shattered remains of the Destiny back, Shinn wept bitterly at what he had been forced to do.
As the enemy fleet continued to move in, despite staggering losses, the Daedalus Defense fleet slowly fell back, as the Requiem Cannon's barrel slowly began to open.
"Captain Abbot?" Durendal asked.
- "Ten percent of our forces still in the line of fire." He reported. "Twenty-three percent of the enemy ships are within range."
- "And what about the cannon?" Durendal asked.
- "Charge is at 42%." Abbott replied.
- "That will do." Durendal said. "Fire."
But before Abbott could give the order, the attacking fleet played its final card, as the Izumo made its move.
With its Mirage Colloid Stealth System still active, the Izumo had, at the beginning of the battle, launched its own mobile suits, which had mingled with those of the other ships, and the carrier had quietly crept into position as the battle raged.
Now, with the defense line collapsing, its commanding officer gave the order, and the ship fired its four positron cannons across the enemy formation, causing massive damage among the mobile suit forces and destroying two of the remaining ships.
Then, as the positron reflectors deactivated and the barrel of Requiem began to open, Yzak saw a breach in the enemy line's defenses.
"Sierra Antares One to all vessels!" Yzak roared, "Open fire with everything you've got! Target: the Gondwana!"
The Minerva fired its "Tannhäuser" positron cannon, while the Alakshya and the Orb ships fired their "Lohengrins", directly across the battlefield at the gigantic mega-carrier.
The onslaught struck the carrier head-on, fatally damaging its entire lower section, destroying its engine blocks.
The damage disabled its attitude control systems, and the crippled vessel began to fall.
The vessel struck the open barrel of the Requiem cannon and exploded in a savage conflagration that tore the barrel of the weapon apart, setting off a chain reaction that caused massive damage to that entire section of the base, triggering a collapse that buried it under millions of tons of rubble.
Only a handful of the twelve escort ships remained. With their flagship destroyed and Durendal dead, the commander of one of the ships made the decision to surrender, firing off the appropriate signal flare, and the others followed suit.
From inside the remains of the Destiny Gundam, Shinn saw the detonation, and then he saw the signal flares. Removing his helmet, he wiped the tears from his eyes with his sleeve.
He ejected the remains of the Destiny, as the escape system that contained its reactor compartment and cockpit block began to move, simultaneously broadcasting an emergency beacon.
Not far away, Athrun's Knight Saviour picked up the beacon, and he steered towards it. He recovered the escape pod, and steered it towards the Minerva.
Boarding the ship, he disembarked to find Shinn leaving the escape pod, and he saw that his young friend's eyes were red, as if he'd been crying.
"Shinn!" Lunamaria yelled as she ran and threw herself in his arms, hugging him. They remained that way for several moments, and when Lunamaria finally stepped back, Shinn looked around until he found Stella, who had returned from the Tsukiyomi to the Minerva.
Releasing the helmet he held, he pushed off the surface of the escape pod, even as she too leaped towards him. The two embraced in midair, and watching, Athrun smiled.
The Gaensler, Susanoo, and other ships arrived not long afterwards, carrying the wounded. Once they were assembled, Athrun, Yzak, and the Alliance commanders agreed to finish the job, and with one last barrage, Daedalus Base's destruction was completed.
Their onerous task completed, the Alliance ships began to fall back towards the sole remaining base on the moon, Theophilus, while the Orb fleet headed back towards Earth, returning to Ame-no-Mihashira.
Hilda Harken, Herbert von Reinhardt, and Mars Simeon had boarded the Argenteuil as the battle ended. They remained there as the Orb fleet left, and were present to greet Athrun when at last he returned to his ship.
"Commander Zala." Hilda said, saluting. Then she introduced her two teammates.
- "Welcome aboard the Argenteuil." Athrun acknowledged. "Ad thank you for your help, out there."
- "Our pleasure, sir." She replied. "Are we returning to the PLANTs?"
"We are." He said.
Onboard the Minerva, Shinn, Stella, and Lunamaria stood on the bridge, as the ZAFT ships were gradually reorganized into two large fleets, under the overall command of the Joule and Zala Teams.
"You did an incredible job out there, kid." Yzak said.
- "Thank you, sir." Shinn replied hollowly.
- "I'm not going to give you some bullshit speech about what happened." He said. "It's not my style, and anyway words don't mean a fucking thing. I know how close you and Rey were. What you had to do...that had to be hard."
- "I just...I wish I could've saved him." He said. He shook his head. Then he turned to look at Stella, finding some solace in her presence, and in Lunamaria's. If Rey had been his brother, Lunamaria was his sister. And the fact that she was there with him was comforting.
- "What happens now, sir?" Lunamaria asked.
- "Now?" Yzak replied. "Now it's time to go home."
Shinn looked out the bridge window, and saw the sun in the distance. And despite his own sorrow, he sighed in relief, and smiled.
At last, it was over, once and for all.