AUTHOR'S NOTE: Chapter 6 parallels Phase 12 of the series, and is nearly identical in terms of the sequence of events covered.
This chapter is unchanged from its previous version - mostly.
PHASE 06: Blood in the Water
Hundreds of miles above the surface of the planet, a large number of ZAFT drop ships were placed at strategic locations in Earth orbit, each one escorted by Nazca-class destroyers and awaiting the signal to begin descent.
Their objective was simple enough: To reinforce the troops already in place at ZAFT's main bases on Earth. The initial proposal for the operation, code-name "Spear of Twilight", had been put forward by Ezalia Joule of the National Defense Committee and accepted unanimously by the Supreme Council, with the caveat, at Chairman Durendal's insistence, that the reinforcements were to be used "for self-defense purposes only" - in other words to beat back the fleets currently blockading the bases. They were forbidden from launching any retaliatory attacks against Earth Alliance assets at Suez or other nearby Alliance bases, which had served as the staging point for the deployed enemy fleets.
At last, it was time to begin.
"Operation Spear of Twilight will commence in T-60 seconds." Came the announcement on all of the orbiting ships. "No enemy force detected within radius of 600. Begin countdown. All forces prepare for launch. Minus five...four...three...two...Commence descent!"
As the order went out, each ship dropped the reentry capsules attached to its underside. There were more than two dozen on each ship, each pod carrying three mobile suits, totaling nearly a hundred additional MS launching from each ship.
On Earth, the Alliance fleets detected the pods as they began entering the atmosphere and scrambled their forces to counterattack. At the same time, each base deployed their own aerial forces and engaged the Alliance mobile suits. The battle had begun.
In Orb, the Minerva left port and began sailing out of Orb's territorial waters. Fully supplied and repaired, its pilots were in the ready room, suited up and on five-minute alert. Meanwhile, Yuna Roma Seiran was at Orb's military HQ, watching the ship leave.
"I hear it's a fast ship. It should be out of our territorial waters in short order. Have we contacted our friends yet?"
-"Yes sir, we have."
-"Are we done with our preparations as well?"
-"Good. Then let's just sit back and watch the show..." Yuna said, anticipating the coming events with some eagerness.
"We have now left Orb territorial waters." Arthur reported as the ship steamed past the twelve-mile limit of Orb's territory.
-"I wonder how the drop operation's going." Yzak commented. "Any word from Carpentaria?"
-"No sir." Abby replied. "I've been trying, but there's still no response."
-"Picking up numerous heat sources ahead, distance 20." Bart suddenly reported. "Looks like an Earth Alliance fleet; four Spengler-class carriers, eight Arkansas-class, and ten Fraser-class. They're spreading out to port and starboard."
-"Four carriers, that's four mobile suits in the hold, three on the deck for each; twenty-eight mobile suits. The Arkansas-class can hold a single helo or mobile suit on the stern deck, so that's another eight; thirty-six mobile suits." Yzak commented, gritting his teeth.
-"That's insane! We only have the Impulse and the three ZAKUs!"
-"That's not the problem: Of our mobile suits, only two are capable of aerial combat: The Impulse and Rey's Tempest ZAKU. So that's nearly twenty-to-one odds." Yzak added, his tone of voice betraying his mounting temper. He thought about it for a moment. "Damn it."
-"What's going on here?" Malik commented. "It's like these ships were out here just waiting for us; I thought the Earth Forces in the area were all surrounding Carpentaria."
-"Sir! The Orb Fleet is massing at their border behind us. Turrets rotating...they're targeting us!" Bart added.
Yzak swore loudly; apparently, it looked like Athha hadn't been entirely successful after all.
-"Upgrade to Condition Red! Arthur, take command here. I'm going out too!"
-"Y..Yes, sir! Going to Condition Red - lower the bridge!" Arthur ordered as he took his place, "All units prepare for anti-ship, anti-MS combat!"
Yzak left, and the entire bridge structure began sliding downwards into the heavily armored combat bridge located just below, where it was protected by the ship's heavy armor, including a thick armored panel that slid shut overhead. The bank of monitors flickered to life.
As he headed down to the hangar to get suited up and ready, Yzak was fuming. 'They haven't even signed that damn treaty yet, and now Orb is offering us to the Alliance on a silver platter. Bastards. That fat pig Seiran is bloody well behind this, I just know it!'
-"Upgrading to Condition Red! Pilots proceed to your units and stand by!" Came the announcement over the ship's PA. Rey was up first, followed by Shinn and Luna. They were boarding their machines when Shinn spotted Yzak, easily recognizable by his white flight suit, enter the hangar and board his ZAKU.
-"The Captain's launching too?" Shinn muttered. "How come?"
Moments later as Yzak strapped himself in, he opened up a radio line and had Arthur relay his message to the ship via the PA.
"Attention all hands, this is your Captain. The enemy we are now facing consists of four Atlantic Federation Carrier Strike Groups. Additionally, Orb has deployed a fleet at their border, sealing it off. We now have no choice but to break through the fleet ahead of us; I expect it's going to be the most severe battle we've yet faced - but we have to get through, and we will. I'm counting on all of you to give it everything you've got!"
In the Impulse's cockpit, Shinn was fuming.
-"FOUR carriers? And the Orb fleet too? Damn it!"
The Impulse and Rey's ZAKU were the first out the catapults. Lunamaria followed, as did Yzak. His ZAKU's Tempest Wizard, which would have allowed him atmospheric flight capability, had been damaged during the battle against the Chaos, and they had lacked the time or necessary parts to repair it. He would have to settle with a Blaze Wizard.
"Shinn and Rey; don't stray too far from the ship!" Yzak ordered. "Luna, you and I will fire on attacking airborne units from the deck."
-"Roger that!" Came the simultaneous reply from the other three pilots.
The instant the Impulse was out of the catapult, Shinn shot forward into a formation of enemy Dagger-Ls, which scattered and fired. He took out two of them with the first shots from his beam rifle. Dodging an attack from the leader's Windam he counterattacked, blasting off its shield arm first, then taking it in the torso.
Rey hung back a little farther, alternating between his beam rifle and the high-speed beam gatling guns on his Tempest Wizard to attack enemy MS that approached; He took two of them out with the latter; the lead unit dodged the attack, however, forcing him to take it out with the rifle.
On the bridge, Arthur was making preparations to attack the enemy ships along the port bow in an attempt to break through.
"Tristans and Isoldes, target the ships on the port side; load launchers one through six with Parsifals; FIRE!"
The ship fired a massive barrage of missiles followed up with a volley from its numerous cannons, taking out two Arkansas-class ships and crippling a third. However, they had to contend with overwhelming numbers of mobile suits, and even with Shinn and Rey whittling away their numbers, some slipped past
"Incoming mobile suits at three o'clock, sir: three of them!" Bart reported.
-"Evade 10 to port!" Arthur ordered, and Malik turned the ship slightly. Spotting the targets, Lunamaria took aim and fired, nailing one of them. The other two dodged and launched their missiles at the ship before Yzak let off a shot from his own rifle, obliterating one of the survivors. Detecting the incoming projectiles, the 40mm CIWS dotting the ship's hull roared to life, easily destroying the small but deadly missiles. At such close range, the enemy Dagger was also detected by the CIWS and cut to shreds as one of the numerous turrets targeted his mobile suit.
However, missiles were also being fired from other mobile suits, and some of them slipped past the CIWS's defense, impacting the hull and rocking the ship.
A second formation closed in to attack and Lunamaria targeted them with the Gunner ZAKU's missile launcher, firing a volley of projectiles that blew them to pieces.
"This isn't over!" Shinn exclaimed as he docked the beam rifle and drew one of the Impulse's two beam sabers. Targeting one of the formations attacking the Minerva, he dodged a shot from one of the Daggers; closing fast, he slipped inside the enemy pilot's guard and hacked open its torso, killing the pilot. As the leader's Windam and the other Daggers moved to counter, he turned towards them.
"We're not about to be defeated here!" he charged into the formation. One shot grazed the leg, doing minor damage. As he engaged the leader, the others scattered.
And Rey was waiting, picking off both as the enemy Windam blocked Shinn's beam saber with its own. Shifting his position, Shinn delivered a hard kick with the Impulse's leg that impacted the enemy MS's front waist, throwing it off-balance just long enough for him to slip his own blade into its cockpit hatch.
Then there were the enemy ships, which fired a massive barrage at the Minerva.
"Incoming missiles from three o'clock and twelve o'clock, sir! Lots of them!"
-"Turn 20 to starboard; intercept with CIWS: target the attacking ships with Isolde, Tristans 2 and 3!"
The Minerva turned to starboard, allowing the maximum number of CIWS turrets to lay down a hail of suppressive fire that stopped the vast majority of the incoming missiles. Two of its three dual beam cannons, along with the heavy triple-barreled cannon on its upper bow, fired at the enemy ships, taking out two more.
Meanwhile Shinn and Rey continued to engage enemy mobile suits; Rey was using his beam rifle and beam gatling guns to take them out from long range, while Shinn, faster and more agile, engaged them in close-quarters. He hacked in two another Dagger L, and when one tried to attack from behind he blocked the attack with the Impulse's shield. Slamming the shield into the enemy machine, he then swiped diagonally at its torso, bisecting it.
But more and more mobile suits were launching from the carriers. One of them narrowly missed the Impulse's head. Shinn turned and moved in, blocking its next shot with the shield and counterattacking with the rifle, slicing off the front quarter of the Dagger's own beam carbine - rendering the weapon useless. The enemy unit drew a small knife-type weapon, which it threw at the Impulse. The weapon detonated when it hit the Impulse, rocking the machine but causing no damage.
However, Shinn was thrown off-balance for a second, and had to narrowly dodge the slash from its beam saber. Shifting his grip, he countered with a diagonal strike that severed the Dagger's waist from its upper body, then stabbed the blade upwards into its back, destroying it.
He checked his display; he was down to roughly 50% power.
"Damn; is that all I've got left?..Gotta be more careful."
Rey meanwhile was less fortunate; one lucky shot had hit his shoulder, taking with it the railgun and only narrowly missing the Tempest Wizard's wing. As he fired the beam gatling guns at one enemy unit, it fired a shot that took out his beam rifle, leaving him only with the Gatlings and with only his left arm functioning. When one of the enemy machines closed into melee range, he retreated long enough to draw the "Falx" beam axe from his shoulder-shield. Taking advantage of the weapon's longer range, he sliced off the enemy Dagger's arm, then reversed his swing and hacked it in two.
He then continued to fire from long range, dodging most of the attacks that came his way, blocking the rest; the Daggers were more nimble than his ZAKU but less heavily-armed; only the command-type Windams, with their big beam rifles, were really difficult; those machines were fast and agile, nearly on par with the Impulse.
Lunamaria and Yzak were likewise firing at everything that came within range, but it seemed like there was no end to them.|
-"Look how many there are - this is ridiculous!" Lunamaria exclaimed as yet another formation of mobile suits closed in. She targeted them and fired a barrage of missiles, obliterating most of them. She eliminated those that were able to dodge or shoot down the incoming missiles with the "Orthos" beam cannon.
-"Keep the chatter down, we don't have time for it." Yzak commented dryly as he lined up another shot with the rifle and fired, taking out another Dagger before it could fire at the ship. As an additional formation came in, he locked on and fired the Blaze Wizard's missile launchers, swarming them with missiles and taking out the lot of them. "Just shoot these bastards."
Then, he saw the alert; he was beginning to run low on power, and his rifle's energy drum was expended. Ejecting it, he retrieved one of the two spares mounted on the underside of the shield and snapped it into place.
"Damn it. The longer this drags on, the worse our chances get." He muttered. "We have to break through, and fast."
Meanwhile in Orb, Cagalli was hard at work putting the finishing touches on the next - and she hoped, final - draft of the agreement with the Eurasian Federation, which she would send to Mina to relay to President Baum's Cabinet. If all went well, she hoped to have this entire situation resolved within a few days. Once it was, Orb would be safe.
Once this was done, she stopped for a few moments to think.
Earlier in the morning Yuna had come by and congratulated her on ensuring Orb's continued safety. He hadn't meant a word of it, she could tell. But he was - or more to the point, Unato Ema, his father was highly influential in the Council, and a lot of the others followed the Seirans' lead.
The problem lay in that the Seirans were pushing for a political marriage, arguing that uniting the two strongest of Orb's noble families would strengthen the morale of the nation. And Yuna was pushing for it harder than ever.
"But do I really want to marry him? Would that really be best for Orb?" She wasn't sure what the right thing to do would be. She glanced at the ring on her finger. It was a lovely jewel; not very big, but elegant; just the sort of thing Athrun would pick out for her.
It suddenly occurred to her that she hadn't seen Yuna in a while. She picked up the phone and dialed the Seiran residence.
"Yuna Roma please; is he there?...Military HQ? What would he be doing there?..." she said. "No, it's all right; nevermind." She answered the receptionist who'd picked up the phone when he asked what she had said. "Thank you." She hung up.
After a moment, she decided to see exactly what Yuna was doing at Orb's military command center.
Outside Orb's waters, the battle was raging. The fleet had lost a third of its mobile suits and four escort ships so far, but they were hammering at the Minerva from long range, mostly with missile barrage after missile barrage, but also with their cannons; It was only a matter of time before the ship sank before the onslaught; their advantage was overwhelming.
At least, that was the opinion of the fleet's commander, who sat on the bridge of the only carrier to have remained in the back of the enemy formation, and had so far deployed only a handful of mobile suits from its deck. Unusually, the lateral launch doors on this particular carrier were absent; It had been modified with a single large launch hatch on its central upper deck, and carried only four mobile suits on its stern decks.
This was the Tarawa, the fleet flagship for this particular assault force. On its bridge, the CO was watching the battle unfold.
"I see O' Donnell's report about that ship's fighting strength was not exaggerated. They are putting up a pretty good fight."
From the back, he saw the other carriers launch another massive volley of missiles.
The enemy ship's CIWS took out a sizable chunk of them, but a number of projectiles slipped through, causing significant damage to the hull, though nothing crippling yet.
As the latest volley of missiles came screaming in towards the Minerva one of them impacted the starboard deck, destroying the Tristan. Worse still, Yzak's ZAKU was caught in the explosion and severely damaged.
"Damn it!" Yzak swore. He flipped a switch, and the crippled ZAKU's torso and legs were literally ejected as the cockpit block, encased in a small, mobile escape pod, shot forward. The ZAKU lacked the Impulse's complex modular construction, but the basic concept of the Core Splendor had been stripped down to create this simplified version, designed purely to function as an escape pod. Landing the little craft on the stern deck, he entered the ship, and made his way back up to the bridge without bothering to change out of his flight suit.
"Captain?" Arthur asked as he saw him arrive.
-"I'm taking the bridge. We've lost one MS. How bad is it up here?"
-"Significant damage to the hull, but nothing major yet; We've lost one of the Tristans, and we have damage to main thrusters two and three from enemy missile strikes. The Impulse and Tempest ZAKU are down to 40% and 55% power respectively, and the Tempest ZAKU is damaged. The Gunner ZAKU's at 62% power."
Yzak growled; this was bad, and they'd only whittled down about a third of the enemy force; if it kept up, they were in trouble. Another volley of missiles screamed in towards the Minerva, most of which were intercepted by the ship's CIWS. But it still wasn't enough, and several projectiles impacted the ship's hull.
"Counter attack. Load Wolfram, all tubes. Load launchers 1 through 4 with Dispar air-intercept missiles; Parsifals in 9 and 10; target the enemy fleet with the remaining Tristans and Isolde 1." Yzak ordered. "Tristan 1 and 2, Isolde, FIRE!"
The cannons fired, taking out one of the enemy's Arkansas-class ships. The remaining Alliance ships fired yet another volley of missiles.
"Evade 20 to port, Set Dispars to intercept; Launchers 1 through 4, FIRE!" Yzak barked as they detected the incoming attack.
The Minerva launched a first, then a second, then a third volley of missiles, the smaller and faster projectiles intercepting the larger anti-ship missiles before they could strike the ship. Of the projectiles that remained, the CIWS whittled down most of the rest; several missed as the ship moved, the rest impacted its hull, buckling and damaging it; One of them hit the bow-mounted Isolde, taking out the cannon entirely.
"Launchers 9 and 10, tubes 1 through 4, launch Parsifals." Yzak ordered. Eight missiles streaked towards the nearest carrier. Its own anti-missile defenses took down all but two, which impacted its hull at deck level, ripping a gaping hole in its side above the waterline.
-"Wolfram, all tubes loaded." Arthur reported.
-"FIRE!" From four horizontal launch tubes almost at the very tip of the Minerva's sharp bow, a series of Wolfram M25 wire-guided torpedoes launched. These were big, 56cm weapons, with a 300kg high-explosive warhead capable of splitting apart the keel of most capital ships.
Arthur kept the weapons under tight guidance, running passive. Then as they closed in he switched all four to active homing, and weapons one and two reported lock.
-"Release one and two." Yzak ordered, and Arthur cut the wires and released the first two torpedoes.
The big underwater missiles struck the keel of the damaged carrier roughly a hundred meters apart, shattering it and ripping its hull open. The stricken carrier began to sink fast as the third, then the fourth torpedoes reported active lock.
-"Release 3 and 4." Yzak ordered. The last two torpedoes had acquired separate targets: An Arkansan-class cruiser and a Frasier-class destroyer, sailing close to the sinking carrier.
The explosion literally ripped the smaller ship in two, while the Arkansas was hit just at the bow, which was blasted open. Both ships soon joined the carrier on the bottom.
Onboard the Tarawa, the fleet commander turned to his XO.
"Where is the Zamza-Zah?" He asked. When the XO looked questioningly at him, he continued smugly. "We won't get an effective demonstration of its power if the prey is too weakened."
-"Yes, sir. We'll launch it as soon as it's ready." The other replied.
-"I may be a little biased, but I believe mobile armors like that one will soon be the backbone of our forces." The captain began to comment. "They're a lot better than those flimsy imitation ZAFT machines we have now."
In the hold of the ship, a crew of three was boarding the YMAF-X6BD Zamza-Zah, a massive prototype mobile armor developed by Adukav Mechano-Industries for the Atlantic Federation. Fast, heavily armed and armored, it was the largest and most powerful mobile armor ever produced thus far, and the Tarawahad been specially modified to serve as its mothership. This would be its first actual combat sortie, and the entire crew looked forward to seeing it destroy this pestilential ZAFT ship.
"Zulu 01, lift up. Deck crew fall back to the bunkers after guidance is confirmed. Course is clear; Ready for launch!"
The deck crew ran for cover as the Zamza-Zah's thrusters roared to life, and the massive mobile armor took off.
"Incoming unknown!" Bart suddenly reported on the Minerva's bridge. "Whatever it is, it's big!"
-"Abby, give me eyes on that thing." Yzak snapped.
-"Getting a visual now, sir." She replied. A moment later, the new arrival appeared on the main display screen.
-"What the hell is that?...it's huge!" Arthur exclaimed.
-"A mobile armor...if that monster gets ahold of us, we're finished. Arthur, activate the Tannhaüser! We'll obliterate that thing and the ships along the port bow."
-"Sir! Activating Tannhaüser. Transferring firing axis control - target the enemy mobile armor."
A diamond-shaped hatch along the Minerva's sleek bow slowly opened as a large cannon barrel slid out from inside the ship. The barrel began glowing bright white as energy gathered at its mouth.
-"FIRE!" Yzak ordered.
The massive energy gathered was released in an enormous blue-white beam that shot towards the enemy mobile armor, which had rotated forward, turning its triangular back towards the Minerva. A thin field of energy shimmered into existence along its back an instant before the enormous positron beam impacted. The barrier stopped the beam, but the massive amount of energy forced the mobile armor back several hundred meters. Two ships were annihilated by the beam as it passed.
But when the smoke cleared, the Zamza-Zah was still intact; its positron reflector, a prototype new technology loosely inspired by the monophase lightwave-barrier developed years earlier by the Eurasian Federation, had worked.
"It deflected it?" Shinn said, shocked. "Even the Tannhaüser..." The Tannhaüser, a positron beam cannon similar to the Lohengrin developed by the Atlantic Federation, was the most powerful weapon in the Minerva's considerable arsenal. And against this monstrous mobile armor, it had proven ineffective.
On the Minerva's bridge, the shock was total, and for a couple of seconds nobody spoke. Then Yzak slammed his fist into his seat's armrest.
"Damn it! Take us 20 to port, engines to maximum! Recall Shinn and Rey - target the port-side carrier with the Tristans. Load Dispars in launchers 1 through 4, Neidharts in 5 and 6 Parsifals in 8 through 10."
-"But Captain, that mobile armor..." Arthur began to speak, but Yzak cut him off.
-"You have any bright ideas, genius?" he retorted angrily, then continued. "Let's see if we can't shake him off temporarily at least. Launchers 5 and 6, target the enemy mobile armor and fire."
-"Right. Launcher 5, Launcher 6; Neidharts, FIRE!" A volley of missiles streaked towards the Zamza-Zah, which began to move, firing a set of 75mm CIWS guns mounted on its arms, shooting down the missiles. Not altogether surprised, Yzak turned to the helmsman. "Do your best to avoid it, Malik."
Rey immediately returned, taking up a position above the Minerva's starboard deck. Meanwhile the Zamza-Zah had righted itself and accelerated towards the Minerva, its two front arms straightened as it targeted the ship.
"Oh no you don't, you bastard." Shinn exclaimed as he slammed the throttles to their stops. The Impulse shot straight ahead of the enemy mobile armor, which was forced to break off its attack to avoid having both arms sliced off by the Impulse's beam saber.
"The hell's with this thing's mobility?" Shinn raged as he readjusted his position.
The mobile armor extended two claws built into its front arms, which began to oscillate at high speed, glowing red. The mobile armor charged forward, aiming to catch the Impulse around the torso. Shinn dodged the attack, then had to block a volley from an array of cannons mounted laterally along the mobile armor's main body. He docked the beam saber and retrieved his beam rifle from its mounting point on the Impulse's rear waist.
"We'll crack that puny body of yours like a nut!" The Zamza-Zah's pilot yelled as he came around for a second attack. Shinn this time shot upwards above it, firing the beam rifle twice as he did so. The positron reflector activated again, blocking his shots.
But he'd noticed something this time.
"Got you, you bastard." He said in an undertone, smirking.
Before Shinn could make his next move the Zamza-Zah fired two multiphase beam cannons, mounted in its rear legs, as well as the upper-mounted cannons. Shinn blocked one shot as he slipped laterally out of the line of fire.
The Zamza-Zah came around again, firing its cannons, then swung at him with its claws. Shinn dodged high, then slammed the throttles sideways. Slipping to the Zamza-Zah's left side, he fired at the thin triangular endpiece at the back of its body, shearing it off.
"Sir! Reflector field generator 2's been destroyed; the positron reflector can no longer be activated!" One of the Zamza-Zah's crew, who was responsible for operating the deflector field, reported.
-"BASTARD!" The pilot screamed as he fired at the enemy Gundam, which dodged again.
Shinn took aim at the mobile armor's main body and fired the beam rifle. The mobile armor adjusted its thrusters and dodged the attack, which confirmed Shinn's guess: That shield was out of action.
Meanwhile, the Alliance fleet's remaining mobile suit forces had renewed their attack on the Minerva, as had their ships. The Minerva fired a barrage of Dispar air-intercept missiles as another formation of mobile suits closed in, and Rey and Luna were countering as well. A second wave launched immediately to counter an incoming missile barrage from the ships, supplementing the wall of 40mm fire from the ship's CIWS.
"Launchers 8 through 10, launch Parsifals." Yzak ordered. "Fire Wolfram 1 and 2." A hail of anti-ship missiles rained on the enemy ships as two more went to the bottom, ravaged by hits from missiles that slipped past their defenses as well as crippled by the two big torpedoes. Shifting its course slightly, the Minerva began to turn back towards Orb.
Orb Union Military Central Command Building.
"Wow, that is one incredible machine." commented one of the soldiers in the room. "It even stopped their positron cannon."
-"It's putting up a pretty good fight though." commented another.
-Yuna was glancing smugly at the screen as the door slid open, and Cagalli walked in.
-"What's going on here?"
-"Ah, Cagalli." Cagalli ignored him as she walked in, looking at the screens that showed the ongoing battle.
-"The Minerva. It's under attack...the Earth Forces?" She asked.
-"That's right - just outside Orb's territory." Yuna replied. "But there's no need to worry: I've sent our own fleet out there to guard our borders."
-"You're not letting the Minerva back into our territory. But they have nowhere to run." Cagalli exclaimed.
-"Those are the rules of Orb. Are they not?" Yuna replied, insufferably smug.
At one of the consoles monitoring the position of the ships outside Orb, the soldier watching the screen suddenly reported that the Minerva was drawing closer to Orb territory. "Alert them and fire warning shots. If they refuse to stop, I authorize our forces to attack!"
-"YUNA!" Cagalli yelled, her temper rising.
-"This nation isn't your plaything!" Yuna retorted. "Would you stop making decisions based on how you feel?"
-Every eye in the room turned towards Cagalli, not a few of them a condescending expression on their face. Those expressions turned to blank shock when Cagalli suddenly delivered a vicious punch to Yuna's solar plexus, knocking the wind out of him and dropping him to his knees.
-"Based on how I feel? You sanctimonious prick - you don't have the first idea how I feel!" She yelled, then turned to face the soldiers in the room. "Belay that order! If even one ship attacks the Minerva I'll have its commander court-martialed."
She turned to Yuna, who was struggling to get to his feet. "The PLANTs are neither an enemy of the Eurasian Federation nor of Orb. Bearing this in mind I will not allow the Orb fleets to attack a vessel belonging to that nation. Now get out of here."
Yuna left, still grunting in pain and breathing heavily. In the meantime, Cagalli turned to the screens again, and saw that the situation had changed. While Cagalli arrived at Orb's military headquarters, Orb's Second Home Defense Fleet, deployed along the border, was preparing to obey the orders it had received, however reluctantly.
"They want us to side with the army that invaded us, and fire on a ship that fought heroically to save Earth..." said the fleet commander, a grizzled officer of forty named Fumihiko Todaka. "Personally I believe the appropriate word here is "ungrateful" - but that word probably doesn't exist in the world of politics."
Privately, he thought he would rather not ever have to face a ship like that in combat; A veteran of the disastrous battle of Orb during the previous war, Colonel Todaka had seen the combat capabilities of the Archangel firsthand; He thought the Minerva was easily the equal of that legendary vessel. He also reflected that he would not want to run afoul of the pilot of their Gundam - very similar to the Strike, he thought it was; but that pilot fought with skill and a vicious determination; Even against that monstrosity of a mobile armor, he was relentless.
With a resigned shrug, Todaka turned to his crew. "Ok, we'll warn them. Aim the main guns at the water just ahead of the Minerva. But for God's sake don't hit the ship."
- "Yes sir." came the answer from the gunnery crew.
-"Sir," his XO protested, "those aren't our orders."
-"So what?" Todaka replied evenly. "I'm not a politician." The XO prepared to issue a warning to the approaching vessel.
-"Attention, ZAFT warship Minerva. Your present course is taking you into the territory of the Orb Union. Our nation will not permit your ship to enter our waters - turn back at once!"
The broadcast warning shocked the crew of the Minerva, including Shinn.
"If we turn back now, we're finished for certain...Stay on course! We'll run as far as we can go!" Yzak ordered.
As the ship closed in, the Orb fleet opened fire, their shots striking the water around and immediately ahead of the ship.
"They're really...attacking us." Shinn said, almost too stunned to believe it. But the precious few seconds of inattention allowed the Zamza-Zah to finally catch the Impulse by the leg. "Oh, SHIT!" he swore as the massive mobile armor began to drop at high speed, dragging the Impulse along.
Its hyper-oscillating claw could not cut through the Impulse's VPS armor on its own, but the constant pressure on the system drained the last of the machine's battery, and the VPS deactivated. As the Zamza-Zah threw the Impulse towards the water, the claw ripped its leg off.
Shinn was falling, floored in place by the pressure, the blood rushing through his feet; he was on the edge of blacking out, knowing he was seconds away from a fatal impact with the ocean's surface below.
'Is this is? Is this really how it's going to end?...' Images flashed before his eyes - memories. His mother. His father. Mayu. Rey, and Luna.
'NO. I can't...I WON'T LET IT END LIKE THIS!"
Almost instinctively, before he even realized he'd done it, he slammed the throttles to their stops. The Impulse rocked to a stop a scant few feet from the surface, the sudden stop throwing Shinn in his harness.
Something was happening to him; his mind was miraculously clear, clearer than he'd ever felt; Orb, the Alliance, all of that didn't matter at the moment. The only thing that mattered was that no matter what, he would survive; and he would defeat any enemy who threatened his survival, that of Luna, and Rey, and all the others.
The mobile armor aimed its four arms down at the Impulse and fired the multiphase beam cannons each held. But its motions seemed sluggish, as if it was slower than it'd been; Or perhaps, Shinn was better aware of its motions somehow. He shifted the Impulse's position ever so slightly, and the four beam missed, throwing up a cloud of steam that hid him from view as they hit the surface.
He checked his instruments; no power, but still plenty of propellant. Good. He took flight, heading towards the ship.
"Minerva. Prepare to use the deuterion beam system; and get a Leg Flyer and Sword Silhouette ready."
Abby glanced at Yzak, who nodded.
-"Right. Deuterion chamber, stand by. Tracking system has a fix on the Impulse."
-"Rey! Cover me!" Shinn transmitted to his teammate as he approached; Behind, the Zamza-Zah was closing in. Rey moved forward, firing his beam gatlings at the mobile armor, which was forced to evade his attack. It only bought Shinn a few seconds, but those seconds were enough.
-"Deuterion Beam, activated!" Abby announced as a pencil-thin green beam of energy shot from one of two projections on the Minerva's conning tower towards the rectangular centerpiece on the Impulse's head. From that receiver, energy was transmitted through power conduits to the machine's battery; in mere moments, its capacity was restored to 100%, and the VPS reactivated. The beam faded as Shinn shot towards the mobile armor.
Watching from Orb's military headquarters, Cagalli couldn't believe what she was seeing; the Impulse's battery had apparently been depleted, as its armor had deactivated. But now it had recharged in midair, without returning to the Minerva or connecting to any kind of visible power conduit other than that minute green beam; and it had recharged in seconds.
"Recall the Second Home Defense Fleet; tell them to return at once!" she ordered.
Meanwhile, the Impulse was reengaging the Zamza-Zah. Charging towards it, he drew his beam saber.
The mobile armor fired its cannons again, but Shinn knew exactly what to do; he brought his shield to bear directly in front of him at a slight angle, almost without even thinking about it. He held it for a few moments as it blocked the shot, then increased the angle at the same time as he shifted the Impulse's thrusters, shooting upwards over the beam, then over the mobile armor.
He was too close and too fast; before the mobile armor could evade, the Impulse landed kneeling on its back, and its saber stabbed the mobile armor in the back, driving in to the hilt. Then Shinn shifted the Impulse's grip slightly, and the blade swept forward across the cockpit block, incinerating the pilot. The Impulse leaped off as the crippled mobile armor fell to the ocean, where it exploded.
"Send out the Silhouettes!" Shinn barked over the radio as he ejected the Impulse's damaged Leg Flyer.
Not long afterwards, a new Leg Flyer launched from the Minerva's miraculously still-intact central catapult, and Shinn docked with it before ejecting the Force Silhouette, which returned to the ship.
Docking with the new equipment caused the Impulse's color to change from blue to red as its computer automatically reoptimized the VPS power settings. Drawing from its back the two "Excalibur" anti-ship beam swords, he docked their hilts together as the Impulse fell towards the remaining Alliance ships.
They fired missiles at him, but he either moved around them using the Impulse's thrusters or shot them down using its torso-mounted 20mm CIWS.
He landed on the deck of the first ship - a cruiser - and hacked open the dual beam cannon on its bow before driving one of his heavy blades across its bridge. The cannon's explosion caused massive damage to the ship's bow, and it slowly began to sink.
His next target was one of the destroyers; this time, he drove the Excalibur deep into its missile launchers, slashing diagonally across the rectangular array, then leaping off as the destroyed missiles detonated, literally ripping the ship to pieces from the inside out, as Shinn turned towards his next target.
Attempting to avoid this demonic mobile suit that was decimating their fleet, one of the cruisers made a sudden course change...and slammed into the Tarawa, its sharply-angled bow tearing open the carrier's hull at the waterline even as it was itself crushed, buckling under the impact. Leaping off the deck of the sinking ship, Shinn attacked the two damaged vessels.
One team of mobile suits attempted to attack Shinn as he landed on the cruiser's deck, and he leaped off, storing the swords temporarily; the enemy machines' shots hit the ship as he detached from his backpack a pair of beam boomerangs and threw them.
One machine was gutted by one of the weapons. Another dodged it, but caught the other from behind as it curved back towards its thrower, carving out the side of the machine and killing its pilot.
Shinn caught and stored the two weapons, then drew and fired his beam rifle at the third as he landed back on the cruiser's helipad - which could, and these days usually did, hold a single mobile suit.
As he landed, a single CIWS turret fired at him. He hacked it off when he swung the Excalibur, the blade cutting deep into the superstructure. The second sword he impaled through the helipad and across its entire length, shearing off an entire corner of the hull.
Leaping off, he landed on the carrier and again drove his weapons into the VLS launchers, hacking apart the projectiles still stored within. Ignoring the stream of bullets from the ship's nearest CIWS turret, which were pinging harmlessly off the Impulse's armor, he then turned to the conning tower and, with a scream of rage, sliced it open.
Shinn next shifted his attention towards the other ships of the fleet, and saw that they were in full retreat.
The battle was over.
"Shinn..." Lunamaria muttered, unbelieving. She'd always known Shinn was a good pilot, ever since their days at the Academy in the PLANTs. But she'd never seen such ruthless efficiency. She couldn't believe it. Neither could Yzak or the Minerva's crew.
Looking back from his own ship, Colonel Todaka was equally shocked at this incredible display, not just for the skill it showed but the sheer brutality of the assault.
From Orb's military HQ, Cagalli stared, dumbfounded and terrified. Never, ever had she seen anything like this.
With a shudder, she remembered Shinn's last words to her, before the ship left port.
"If you become our enemy, I'll destroy this country with my own hands."
After thinking about it at the time, she'd dismissed it as Shinn's anger getting the better of him, an idle threat. But after what she'd just seen, she was starting to think that he very well might be able to do it...