Gundam Seed: F.R.E.E.D.O.M.
The Abandoned Battlefield

Phase I: The Suspicious Colony

It is the distant future, and it once seemed bright. Mankind has finally expanded out into space, living in colonies scattered around the Earth like so many fans at a particularly poorly received concert. Colonies were also established on the Moon, but the general lack of proper gravity left it mainly to amusement parks and assembly plants for horrible weapons of mass destruction that would obviously never be used except if war was somehow declared between some of the many governments that had cropped up across the large sprawl of Humanity.

Most of the less-reputable political publications have been taking bets on which governments that are most likely to get into a fight. Even numbers tend to place it on the Earth Alliance and PLANT.

The Earth Alliance really isn't a government per se. Instead, it's a collection of different governments scattered around the Earth, while the central government sits around their headquarters in Alaska and generally pretend to be in charge while doing nothing of importance at all. Business as usual for a multi-nation leadership on Earth, really.

PLANT, meanwhile, is often called a fancy Member's Only club filled with hipsters and douchebags. While this seems a bit rude, perhaps, one only needs look at what the acronym PLANT happens to mean. Productive Location Ally on Nexus Technology. Not a single goddamned person outside the central government happens to know what exactly that means, and the central government isn't talking either. Indeed, the few times the question was raised in an interview, the leader of PLANT simply adjusted his horn-rimmed glasses and said that the reporters "just didn't get it, man, and [he] shouldn't have to explain it."

And honestly, the fact that the leadership is the stereotype that so many people claim isn't the only reason tensions have been rising so harshly between PLANT and the Earth Alliance. Another rather smallish factor is that of genetic manipulation.

In a scene that looked like it was ripped directly out of a really, really bad romance anime, two youths can be seen standing amidst a proverbial ton of cherry blossom trees. And true to bad romance anime formula, it's spring of some unidentified year in the past, and those cherry blossoms are in bloom, casting the entire grove in a shade of bright pink as a light breeze drifts through the trees, bouncing the loose flower petals so they slowly drift to the ground.

And deep within this grove, a boy and a girl are meeting for the last time before life tears them ap-


Ok, I've just received a brief correction from my copy editor. A pair of boys, who are best friends, are meeting for what seems like the last time. One of them, a boy with brown hair and purple eyes, was dressed in your average pseudo-Japanese school uniform. The other, the one I could have sworn was a girl, was dressed in what looks for all the world like a Girl Scout. But with pants. He even has that kicky little beret that the Girl Scouts have, this one a shade of green to match his uniform that didn't do much to cover the deep black hair on his head. Indeed, the green of his outfit actually matched his eyes, making him look a little creepy.

"Athrun," the brown-haired lad spoke up first as the cherry blossoms swirled around them, "…you really do look like a damned Girl Scout. This is seriously what they're making you wear?"

Athrun Zala sighed heavily, palming his forehead and closing his eyes in exasperation, "…yes. Apparently, my father's decided that Heliopolis is too rough a neighborhood for his precious son. So he's enrolled me in the ZAFT military academy."

Athrun's friend paused at that, "…soooo…"

"Yes, Kira," Athrun finished his friend's thought, realizing what he was about to ask, "I'm pretty sure my dad's crazy, too."

Kira Yamato stifled a laugh as he stepped back a little, "Ok, good. Now, you said you had something for me?"

It was then that Athrun's beret hopped a few inches up off his head, letting out a chirp sound.

Kira jumped back, letting out a girlish shriek. For his part, Athrun sighed and grabbed at his hat, reaching inside and pulling out something that he'd hidden there.

"Birdy, I told you to be quiet," he scolded in a tone that suggested he was talking to a young child, "You ruined the surprise."

The appropriately, if generically, named green robot bird chirped back, tilting its head at Athrun like it could actually understand what he said. Birdy chirped again, then bounced from Athrun's hand and onto Kira's shoulder, pecking at Kira's uniform jacket.

Athrun nodded as he saw Birdy taking to Kira already, "I made him for you in my spare time. Something to remember me by, yanno?"

Kira nodded and grinned at Athrun as the latter also handed over the robot bird's recharge cable and reboot software in case things went wrong, "Like I could ever forget my best friend, Athrun."

You see, there was a man named George Glenn who lived in the early days of the Cosmic Era. For a time, what he was best known for was for being a genetically-engineered human made for being generally more awesome and better than your average man. Reasons for this are foggy, but most assume Mr. Glenn's parents happened to be the sort with enough money to find those scientists and doctors to whom annoying things like morals and rules were but mere pittances compared to owning their own islands in the Caribbean. Mr. Glenn kept it a secret, only deciding to reveal his less than natural origins when he left as part of a space probe crew heading off to Jupiter for several months.

George also chose to release the research used to create him onto the internet as well, because he figured that it was something everyone should have and could in no way totally backfire and result in wars that would wipe out massive swaths of mankind.

To put it gently, Mankind lost its shit.

The horrible debates and massive career suicides that happened in the months while George Glenn and his crewmates were gone surprisingly were generally forgotten about when he came back, however. Indeed, mankind had just recovered from the rather silly whack they'd received upside their collective head and were just settling down to working out peace accords for some of the larger conflicts on the planet, not to mention those who were now setting about taking a crack at whether or not it was actually morally right to manipulate the genome of unborn children… when George Glenn presented mankind with another surprise.

Alien life.

Well, ok. Not really living aliens. A massive fossil found in the asteroid belt of Jupiter, which looked for all the goddamned world like a blue whale, only on the scale of meters rather than feet. This, aside from looking really cool, also happened to prove beyond a doubt that mankind wasn't alone in the universe. George Glenn followed this up with a moving speech in which he declared that Mankind should take this as a sign that greater things were afoot. That it was a sign from God (even though this fossilized space whale, now known as Evidence 01, tended to throw most religions into a tailspin) that Mankind's future was in the stars – and in genetic manipulation, which would make man stronger for their journey out into space.

It was like all of mankind rose up with one voice… and began jabbering about like idiots on valium.

In the following months of chaos, George Glenn had basically whipped up support from about half of the nations on the Earth to start building colonies in space. Proverbial ground was broken in year 38 of the Cosmic Era, and the resulting space colonies were quickly filled with people who began having children like rabbits on crack. These children were quickly "adapted" to space with the advanced genetic techniques made by George Glenn's parents.

And, because Mankind is a fickle and shallow beast, made the occasional adjustment to make their children look better. Unnatural colors of eye and hair cropped up almost overnight, and the resultant designer children were all the rage amongst the new nation now known as PLANT.

The other half of the nations on Earth who had not been particularly keen on funding space colonies found this rather… unnatural. Indeed, many began to call themselves "Naturals," as they were born as nature intended. Not to be outdone, those who had been genetically modified chose the name of "Coordinators," because… well, most think the reason is because it sounded cool.

While some nations on Earth itself wholeheartedly embraced the new face of mankind, as presented by George Glenn, the vast majority did not. Indeed, those nations quickly formed together, Voltron style, to become a multi-national government that could bully around the remaining nations without effort. And the first demand of this so-called "Earth Alliance" was that genetic modifications of the human genome were now completely illegal. And so, with two large populations of people holding completely opposite ideals that continually came to a head, whom were forced to get along due to the fact that they lived right next to one another… everyone got along perfectly well and were generally reasonable and happy.

No, wait, the other thing.

For reasons that have, in retrospect, become utterly stupid, the Earth Alliance declared war upon the collective of colonies known as PLANT in early February of year 70 of the Cosmic Era. PLANT took this actually rather well, and generally completely ignored the whole concept of war while the Earth Alliance's leaders stewed with frustration in their Alaskan bunkers. After three days of completely boring non-war, though, the higher ups had come up with a way to make PLANT finally take notice of the fact that war had, indeed, been declared. In this case, it was by promptly firing off a nuclear missile (or thirty) at one of the outermost colonies of PLANT, shattering the "hourglass" shaped residence into millions of pieces and killing all 243,721 people inside.

Of particular note is that this was Valentine's Day, which allowed pundits and news anchors to feel utterly full of themselves by calling this event that finally kick-started the war "the Bloody Valentine."

Luckily for everyone, PLANT made a perfectly reasonable response to that act of terrorism by giving the Earth Alliance some new technology. By shoving it down their throats.

You see, a few completely insane scientists with unlimited funding had discovered something utterly frightening. In a rare lucid moment, one of the team granted it a name: the Neutron Jammer. What this device does completely flips the finger at all four of the fundamental forces in the universe. It completely blocks all form of nuclear fission on a molecular level, turning things like nuclear power plants into particularly large monuments dedicated to how mankind can always find some way to fuck itself over in a particularly harsh way.

That sound you heard was most of the practicing scientists on the Earth (particularly physicists) throwing in the collective towel.

And to make things worse, these were publically unveiled on April Fool's day in year 70… minutes before being shoved miles into the Earth's surface as a totally mature and reasonable countermeasure to a few Naturals being utter dicks. As you might guess, this sent most of the planet into utter chaos and eternal energy crisis which currently make modern-day California and its rolling brownouts look like a cakewalk.

The fact that the N-Jammers, as they are more colloquially known, also tend to render almost any traditional communications signal almost completely useless as a complete, and many swear coincidental, side-effect… has caused the rest of the scientists on Earth to give up and crawl into the bottle to whimper for a while.

Had there been any left actively trying to solve the secrets of the universe, those scientists would promptly give up as well once the forces of PLANT, known as ZAFT (another insufferable acronym, I assure you), began to invade the Earth using their giant robots made of impossible materials and powered by large batteries.

The Earth Alliance tried to counter with large (fission-powered) clunky mobile armors and superior numbers, as well as the occasional nuclear weapon… only for the military leaders to find themselves ripping out their own hair in frustration as their entire fleet proved worthless. Not only were those "Mobile Suits"… well, mobile enough to slaughter a good half of their fleet, but ZAFT had been crazy enough to shove N-Jammers inside every single PLANT colony and around them as a protective "shield" that prevented those nuclear weapons and mobile armors from having a snowball's chance in hell of functioning. PLANT, who happened to prefer "green" methods of energy like the ever-abundant solar power, simply collectively shrugged and continued about their day of making nigh-perfect babies and generally being right assholes about it.

Which only pissed off the Earth Alliance more.

It is now year 73 of the Cosmic Era.

The future no longer seems bright.

And things aren't going so well for anyone these days.

…with one exception.

Kira Yamato (now in the present, age 17) rolled his neck around slightly as he tried to urge himself to relax. It was Saturday. It was a day off for him, for once. A light breeze wafted through the outside air, messing with his short-trimmed traditionally-styled brown hair. His clothes, though, looked like a reject from a really bad cosplay contest (although none of Kira's friends could place the anime, frankly). The gazebo he sat in not only had comfy seats and a clean table, but a power jack for his laptop… which already sat open and powered on. By no coincidence at all, the roof also shaded him from the space colony provided daylight.

Which, truth be told, Kira always found to be a little too bright for his tastes.

Cracking his knuckles, Kira shifted in his seat as he dug into his left front pocket. With a sigh of success, the boy pulled out a small red flash drive. Thumbing off the cap, Kira's innate nerd instincts took over and plugged the thumbdrive into his laptop's USB drive.

The light from the laptop's screen reflected in Kira's deep purple eyes as he began to access the data stored within.

Off in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there lies a small island nation. Their small island chain is mostly remarkable for being generally unremarkable, but it's what's on the islands that matter. Despite having been outside most normal shipping lanes for decades, this small nation has gathered a rather large amount of pull with the other countries of the world. Part of this is due to the fact that the country's main source of power is geothermal, which meant that most of the energy problems plaguing the planet… simply don't matter to them.

This nation is Orb.

Orb is an odd amalgamation of democracy and monarchy, where the leader is invariably one of five "noble" families and the rest of the government tend to be elected officials. Ironically, more shit actually gets done with this clusterfuck of government styles in a day than over at the Earth Alliance in a year… but that's Orb for you. For some reason, the entire nation leads a charmed life. And it also extends to their political inclination.

The best way to describe what Orb does would shock many governmental officials not found in a fictional universe. Indeed, Orb basically wanders into the gorilla cage at the Zoo and begins tossing rocks at the big apes without regard for what could potentially happen if one or both sides got tired of them. Currently, Orb claims to be completely neutral, but that has yet to stop them from aiding the ZAFT government when it comes to space operations and colony construction, or from making sure the Earth Alliance has some brand-new swanky mobile suits.

Oh, crap. You weren't supposed to know that yet.

You can keep a secret, right?

Being a neutral nation also granted Orb one other reprieve. You see, ever since George Glenn returned with Evidence-01, many traditional religions fell to pieces, unable to deal with the concept of alien life. Not coincidentally, most of the refugees of these religions joined George Glenn's glorious potential future at the colonies of PLANT… and quickly formed a new religion: The Church of Celestial Cetaceans, under Our Glorious Whale-Father.

However, those left on the Earth are generally "in the dark" about the Whale-Father's teachings through his profit George Glenn. In short, the Earth Alliance doesn't believe in the Whale-Father and thinks the whole thing is a bunch of religious poppycock. And the more extreme members of the Earth Alliance seem to believe the best way to make the Coordinators believe the best way to make them see exactly how silly their religion is… to purge them with the fires of creation. As granted by small thermonuclear warheads.

Someone high up in the government of ORB, luckily, was smart enough to realize how big a shitstorm this could be and had the nation wisely sidestep the entire issue by simply requesting that all parties who enter the nation kindly "keep their shit outside." It's not really worked, but at least religious jihads have been kept off the streets.

Which, honestly, is probably all for the best. ZAFT isn't the only group with colonies; Orb has even gotten in on the act. Admittedly, it's pretty much one colony. And it's a hand-me-down from ZAFT's earlier days, when they used cylindrical shaped colonies rather than the currently-popular design of incredibly inefficient hourglass shapes. This colony, which houses civilians and many independent contractors, is called Heliopolis.

"Adjust the optical interface variance to within 30 kilopascals," Kira muttered to himself as his fingers flew across the keyboard. Data scrolled across his laptop's screen, accompanied by a strange graph showing performance levels. For what, was any observer's guess, "Reduce the quantum frequency disturbance and re-synch the linear energy couplings…"

Kira pulled himself back from the laptop and looked over his recent work, running his pointer finger under his chin in thought. Slowly, Kira moved the mouse cursor across his added code and clicked the button labeled "execute."

A grin slowly spread on Kira's face as he saw the indicators for the code test go all green.

Not too far off from the just mentioned colony of Heliopolis, upon the Nazca class ZAFT vessel Vesalius, a crack team of commandos had just been given a perfectly good valid to attack the perfectly innocent ORB colony. As a small pair of infiltration shuttles inched their way towards the neutral colony, the brains behind the plan simply reclined in the zero-gravity of the ship's bridge and allowed himself a small smirk.

"Should we really be doing this without clearance from high command, sir?" Captain Ades of the Vesalius found himself looking over to the floating man, "If this plan goes wrong, five of our best pilots-"

"Try not to look so frustrated, Ades," the brains behind the plan interrupted the captain's objection, his true emotions hidden by a small white mask across his face, "There simply isn't enough time to contact the high council, wait for them to delegate and bicker and still pull off this plan. Trust me."

Commander Rau leCreuset flipped through the few pictures his agents deep within the Earth Alliance had been able to smuggle out. The images, though poor quality, showed that the Earth Alliance was working on new Mobile Suits, "If we let these new wonders slip through our hands, there's no telling how much damage to our cause they could do. We might even pay for our reluctance to take action with our own lives."

Such a shame the Earth Alliance has chosen such bland color schemes for their prototypes, though, the masked man mused to himself as Ades began to chant softly to the great Space Whale to watch over the teams entering Heliopolis.

On Heliopolis, deep within the Morgenroete Technical College and Research Facility, Kira Yamato was lost. Again. Quite frankly, it was getting ridiculous, and Kira knew it. Running a hand through his hair in frustration, Kira let out a sigh as he looked down another one of the same grayish white corridors that made up almost the entirety of the MTC campus.

"You'd think I'd remember which room I was supposed to be in by now," he grumbled to no one in particular as he chose one of the corridors by eenie-miney-moe, only to find himself walking by the Particle Physics labs instead of the Mobile Appendage labs. His ever-constant companion, the robot bird Birdy, merely hopped about on Kira's shoulder and chirped a few times. For some reason, that seemed to bring some small level of comfort to Kira – it wasn't like Birdy was going to make fun of him just because he couldn't find the right room.

If Birdy could actually speak, though, it might comment on how they were supposed to take a left at the last corridor.

A few more minutes of wandering and Kira let out a sigh of relief. Finally. He'd found the right door.

Popping open the door to the Mobile Appendage labs, Kira leaned in and expected someone to scold him for being a half hour late. But nothing came.

Instead, Kira found his friends gathered around one of the lab's laptops. From the laptop itself, he could hear a news report.

"Here, only seven kilometers from Kaoshiung, the sounds of the fierce fighting between the Earth Alliance and ZAFT continue to echo in the distance," was the only line Kira could make out, but it was enough.

"…how recent is the report this time?" Kira finally made his appearance known to his friends, dropping his backpack on one of the desks as he walked towards the cluster of people. With the way the war had been going, along with the spastic and bizarre way the N-Jammers had been wreaking havoc with communication lines, official news reports could be days or even months out of date once they reached the colonies. By that time, the fighting in the area could be long over, or the location could even have been re-taken several times over.

The tallest of Kira's friends turned to face him, a look of worry on his face, "About a week old. Kaoshiung isn't that far off from Orb, either."

"I don't think it's going to hit Orb, though, Sai. We're neutral." Kira frowned, shaking his head and tempting fate as Birdy hopped off his shoulder to go perch on the laptop everyone was clustered around, trying to see what the commotion was.

Sai Argyle slid his glasses back up his nose with the push of a finger. His light brown hair was rather close-cropped for someone in college, and his somewhat fancier red jacket with black shirt and blue jeans made him look more like a ZAFT hipster than the professor's assistant that he was, "I dunno, Kira. It just seems… wrong. Like the whole world's gone crazy."

Before Kira could say anything, the door Kira had just come through popped open. This newcomer was apparently a woman around Sai and Kira's age… but was also a gal trying far, far too hard to hide whomever they were. She wore a dark brown overcoat, hiding any sort of femininity, and a comically large hat sat over her blonde hair, obscuring some of her face.

"I'm looking for Doctor Kato," the girl said, pulling her hat lower over her eyes, "I need to speak with him."

Kira looked to Sai and raised an eyebrow, as if to ask 'who the hell is this?' Sai simply shrugged. Turning to the girl, Sai coughed slightly and spoke up, "Sorry, but if Doctor Kato's not here by ten minutes after 10am, he's probably out running errands and performing deeds that we aren't cleared to know about. He might not show up until Noon or worse." And considering it was currently 11… well, Sai wouldn't mention that.

The blonde considered his words for a few seconds. Her head tilted to one side as she crossed her arms over her chest and hummed softly. Her decision made, the blonde walked to one side and leaned against the wall, "Then I'm waiting here for him. And if you don't want me here, then you can go take a flying leap."

Sai might have decided to call this new girl a bitch. But as he was romantically pursuing the woman known as Fllay Allster, he probably wouldn't know a bitch if it up and bit him on the ass.

"So, Kira!" one of Kira's other friends spoke up, popping up from behind Sai like a jack in the box and mildly freaking Kira out at the same time, "Why're you late this time? Forget which room we're all in? Again?"

Kira sighed, because his pal had a scarily good point, "…Yeah kinda, Tolle."

"Ha!" Tolle Koenig let out a cry of victory as he pumped his fist in the air. His clothing was much more traditional than Sai's hipster bargain bin reject, but the t-shirt, unbuttoned dress shirt and blue jeans said one thing about him: he really liked the color blue. In fact, the one thing on him that wasn't blue at the moment was his dark brown hair… although Kira remembered a time where Tolle had tried to dye his hair blue. It was not a pretty week.

"But I've got another reason this time!" Kira grinned, watching Tolle deflate ever so slightly. Kira reached into his pants pocket and yanked out his USB thumbdrive from earlier, the grin growing bigger as he shouted out, "I did it. I got the program code to work in the simulations."

A brief gasp hit all of Kira's friends at once. The Mystery Girl rolled her eyes, not knowing what they were talking about… but her thoughts could be summed up in one word: Nerds.

Sai grabbed the thumbdrive out of Kira's hands, holding it like it was a holy relic from a bygone age, "You balanced the G-Diffuser? Figured out how to carry workloads from one arm to another without screwing with the balance? Got the legs to work?"

Kira nodded in reply, his grin growing bigger.

Sai let out a girlish scream of joy as he scrambled over to the far, dark corner of the lab. At first glance, it didn't seem like anything special, just a pile of white sheets, but then Sai tore the cloth coverings off and flipped on the lights. Amidst a pile of computers and cabling, stood a simple, if complex-looking, humanoid form. It was also hollow, with the intent that someone could actually climb inside it, and the Mystery Girl could make out rudimentary controls here and there from where she was standing.

"…exactly what is that?" she asked, her interest piqued as Sai jammed the USB stick into his station and began typing away at his keyboard, "a robot?"

The sole female of the 'nerd herd,' as the mysterious gal was coming to think of them stepped forward, shaking her head, her short chestnut-brown hair bouncing slightly as she did so, "Not quite. We've been working on a powered exoskeleton," seeing the blank look beneath the hat of the stranger, she continued, "For rescue workers, in areas of extreme emergencies. This suit will make it possible for a single worker to lift what could take twenty or thirty workers a few hours to move, once we get it working right. It could be a godsend in war-torn areas of the Earth."

"Oh, god, there Miri goes again," Tolle groaned as he tried to move in to prevent Miriallia Haw from going on a ramble about how awesome their new tech was. It didn't work.

Miriallia continued on what must have been a pre-planned speech as Tolle tried to calm her down, or at least get her to stop the speech early. This gave the Mystery Girl time to wonder exactly what it was that Miriallia was wearing. Maybe it was fashion popular over in the PLANTs – no one on Earth could be caught dead wearing a bright orange and pastel yellow dress with a high collar and orange sleeves (yet no shoulders). Seriously. The hell.

A loud clap finally cut Miri off from her rambling. Sai stood up from his chair, rubbing his hands almost like he was planning something truly devious, "It's ready. Now all we need is a test subject… Tolle?"

"Tolle." Kira nodded, not missing a beat.

"Tolle." Mirialia joined in, pushing the poor victim towards the exoskeleton prototype.

"M-Miri!" Tolle protested, or at least tried to, had Miri not decided to twist his right arm around behind his back the second she volunteered him for it, "Come on! I took you out on an expensive date last night! Have mercy!"

"Fancy food is one thing," Mirialia shook her head solemnly before looking up, a devious glint in her eye, "But this is science."

Tolle let out a pitiful whimper as he slowly moved closer to the machine, wishing that Kuzzy wasn't on that bus trip of America right now.

Deep within the bowels of Heliopolis' less-used docking bays, a cluster of ZAFT soldiers slid between detection lasers and motion detectors. Some of the soldiers chose the moment to show off their various skills or talents, others simply hugged the walls as best they could… after all, they were busy being not completely insane.

Most of the soldiers were clad in green normal suits and, as such, aren't worth learning about beyond the fact that they're cannon fodder and will likely die in the next few pages. There were five ZAFT soldiers wearing the more elite red pilot's normal suit, though, and these were the five that Captain Ades had shown concern over earlier. Four of the pilots were of the many carefully sliding their way through the many traps and tricks that ORB had set out to make sure no one could do just what was happening. The fifth… less so.

Athrun Zala (also now age 17) cursed under his breath as he finally skittered out from the net of detection lasers seemingly placed haphazardly along their chosen point of entrance. Whomever had made this plan had to be several degrees of insane… and then Athrun remembered who he was thinking about. His commanding officer was certainly many things, but he had never seemed all that gone mentally. To Athrun's left, Dearka Elsman slipped through with far less cursing than one would expect for a person who had to bend in half three different ways to make it through the way he did. To the right, the remaining two sane red suits came through without problems as well. Those suits belonged to Yzak Joule and Nichol Amalfi respectively, and both of them were too busy staring in horror at the fifth red suited pilot to do much of anything.

You see, if anyone involved on the Vesalius was insane, that nomination had to go to the person currently flying like a jackass through the sensors – Rusty Mackenzie. Some believe it was to make up for the fact that he had a relatively normal name.

"Oh, Space Christ…" Athrun hissed over the comm channel, despite the fact that it was one of those secured and private channels that Orb was unlikely to be even remotely aware of, "What the FUCK are you doing, Rusty?"

Although the normal suit's helmet obscured much of Rusty's face, Athrun could still see the bright orange hair his friend had… as well as the giant shit-eating grin plastered across his jaw as he pulled a spin that would have made a ballerina jealous to slip through a deviously placed section of the laser net, "Oh, come on. I could dodge these alarms in my sleep, Athrun. You know that."

Athrun gritted his teeth and shook his head, deciding to punch him after the mission was over instead of right now, "Fine. Whatever. Get your ass over here. Now."

As soon as everyone made it through the sensor net, Athrun began to wave his hands about in a very official-looking manner. Orders delivered, half of the green ZAFT troopers zipped off in their own direction while the other half remained alongside the red ZAFT troopers as they moved further into the colony.

Back in the Mobile Appendage Labs, science was being worked upon. Or, if one was of the mad scientist breed, SCIENCE! was being performed. Trust me, there is a difference.

"Come on, guys…" Tolle whined pathetically as the exoskeleton jerked him back and forth atop its stationary platform, "I can't even feel my legs anymore. Can we stop for now?"

"No." was the immediate answer from Miriallia, "Only three more hours of flex testing and then we can move on to the weight lifting, Tolle. I'll pay for dinner this time if you quit whining, all right?"

"…yes ma'am…"

For his part, Sai was quietly staying out of what could turn into a lover's quarrel. He'd had enough of those with Fllay to last a lifetime, and they'd only been dating for a few weeks.

The Mystery Girl checked her watch again and let out a huff of frustration. Maybe those guys were right. Maybe Doctor Kato was gone for the day and wouldn't be coming back. Damn it. She'd been really hoping to ask him some questions.

So fixated on her watch was she that this unknown girl completely missed Kira sliding up to her, trying to look nonchalant… but coming off about as casual as a fish finding out his water had been replaced by a hot frying pan. He leaned next to her for a few seconds, trying to find the exact words he should say.

"…so. Can I have your phone number?" Kira finally spoke without hesitation, or thinking if it was remotely a good idea to say these words, "I think I lost mine on the way here today."

She simply stared at Kira, a look of combined surprise and pity etched onto her face. It was a rather odd combination, from what little Kira could see of her face. For some odd reason, this made Kira even more interested in the girl.

"…do I know you from somewhere?" Kira asked, now genuinely interested and not actually hitting on her, "You look incredibly familiar."

The Mysterious Girl simply stared at Kira, although it's hard to be sure if she was glaring at him because he was hitting on her, or if he was annoying her.

Good money could be found if one bet on both, though.

Across the maintenance tunnels of the Heliopolis colony, sinister dealings were afoot. Because soldiers of an enemy nation infiltrating the colony's notoriously slack security wasn't enough, each of the dozen soldiers of ZAFT were also carrying fairly large bags of explosives. And a solid desire to use them. Indeed, if one were to follow each of the green normal suited ZAFT troopers, they'd see them each following a map, with locations for their explosives to go marked in pen.

And if this wasn't ominous enough, the locations weren't just military in nature.


…you're getting the idea that ZAFT is evil, right? Because I'd hate to be too subtle about this.

On a ledge overlooking an abandoned highway deep within the Orb Colony, a quintet of red colored ZAFT normal suited soldiers lay in wait. Their helmets were off, and three of them were actually enjoying a solid, union-demanded break for the time being. This left Athrun Zala looking over the cliff, binoculars in hand, on his own

"No sign yet of the convoy. They're late." a gray haired surprisingly young-looking man scoffed as he lay down next to Athrun, map and orders in hand, "Why does that not surprise me."

Athrun scowled. Again with the bitching. To his left lay someone whom Athrun was convinced didn't earn the coveted ZAFT Red jacket through combat skill or promotion, but through parental influence and a career made out of bitching and moaning like a professional. Yzak Joule was his name, and Athrun had spent most the missions alongside this man wishing he'd never met his acquaintance in the first place.

From the impromptu break room, Athrun could hear Rusty Mackenzie laughing his ass off about a joke someone else had told. Without even looking, Athrun knew it was probably Dearka Elsman, the dark skinned blonde, who never passed up seeing the lighter side of things. The last of the cluster of elite ZAFT soldiers was the almost required by law quiet one, Nichol Amalfi. When Athrun first met the guy, he could have sworn he was a really thin and flat-chested woman. But no, that mop of green hair, those oddly attractive green eyes and pale skin belonged to a boy. Which kinda weirded Athrun out, if he was honest about it.

But of course, in a society where a third gender became the norm thanks to constant genetic manipulation to fulfill every parental fantasy, it's not like this wasn't something Athrun could learn to cope with.

After what felt like an eternity, a collection of the green-suited ZAFT soldiers finally made it up to the cliff as well. Some of them honestly seemed out of breath, while others were more awestruck at the view. Being used to colonies in an hourglass shape tended to look plain against the sort of view one could get from a seemingly-endless roll of land occasionally separated by oceans of space.

One of the soldiers saluted Athrun, "Sir! The charges are in place. We're ready for the next phase if you are."

Finally getting up off the ground, Athrun nodded in reply. Despite Yzak's bitching and moaning, the convoy was finally in sight (and on time, Athrun had to note), with three of their five targets contained within. A smirk slid across Athrun's face as he spoke up, "You heard the man. We're up and ready for phase two. Rusty, you're with me. Nichol, Yzak and Dearka? Take the convoy when they're within range."

As he began to take off for the rather large facility simply known as Morgenroete, Athrun gestured at five of the fifteen ZAFT troopers, "You're with me, too. Now move out!"

Meanwhile, back in the lab that totally doesn't contain our excuse for a main character…

Finally speaking up for the first time in a good hour, Sai looked up from his computer and the near-constant stream of data and hummed to himself in thought for a second.

"You know…" he spoke aloud, tapping a finger on his desk, "I heard a new ship docked earlier today, from the Earth Alliance."

Tolle perked up from his being tossed about inside the exoskeleton, "What?" he asked Sai incredulously, "Really? An EA ship? Aren't we… neutral in their galactic dick-waving match?"

Sai shrugged as he tapped away at his keyboard, deliberately deciding to ignore Kira's attempts at hitting on the new girl, "I honestly lost track back when Heliopolis took in those ZAFT refugees that actually turned out to be soldiers trying to escape an Earth Alliance patrol."

"…can you leave me alone?" the mystery girl glared at Kira, trying to somehow hide even further inside her hat as Kira simply kept leaning in closer like an annoying child told not to touch something, "You're really creeping me out."

"You just…" Kira frowned slightly, somehow not realizing he was actually putting Cagali off, what with his lack of general social skills, "You really remind me of someone." He paused, his frown turning into a grin that could be defined as 'slightly perverted,' "…someone hot."

The mystery girl's eye twitched a few times, although she was hidden so much under her hat that no one could actually see it do so. She had suffered enough, especially considering she was still suffering from space jet lag. Taking a step towards Kira, she opened her mouth to tell him off-

Unfortunately, at that very moment, a deep roar from a few miles away interrupted everyone. The lights above flickered and dimmed while the ground shook for several seconds. Smoke actually seemed to trickle in from one of the air vents of the laboratory and faint noises could be heard from the hall – something about emergencies and horrible accidents.

"…what was that?" Tolle moaned from his prone position on the floor, the exoskeleton having broken around him in the fall, "Did Doctor Saotome blow his lab up again?"

"Oh, god," Sai groaned as he picked himself up from under one of the computer desks, "We'll all need to be checked for radiation again. I don't want to be shoved into another chemical shower."

"I'm not about to complain," Kira spoke up from the back of the room, his voice sounding like the cat who'd eaten the canary, "Maybe we could take that shower together?"

As Sai and Tolle looked to Kira, their jaws slid open as they saw their friend holding the mystery gal in a close embrace, having rescued her from an unfortunate fall to the floor. And it didn't miss either man's notice that one of Kira's hands was firmly on her ass.

A slap resounded through the room and Kira fell to the floor, a bright red mark on his right cheek. The mystery girl stomped away from Kira's now prone form, throwing open the laboratory door and leaving with a grumble of swear words. The door left open, the four amateur scientists could hear the standard Heliopolis evacuation alarms going off rather clearly.

"That was worth it." Was all Kira felt he needed to say.

Meanwhile, on that long lonely and abandoned highway deep in Heliopolis, shit was exploding everywhere. Despite a complete lack of holes in the Heliopolis security, much less holes in the colony that would allow for this sort of thing, ZAFT's newest mobile weapons were standing large and in charge over a wreck of transport trucks and dead bodies.

Had the Earth Alliance's caravan expected this sort of insane attack inside a neutral colony, they might have had something resembling security on the caravan. Instead, the only people on the caravan happened to be the Children's Mechanic Corps and the Gift-Giving Committee.

Because ZAFT's evil.

Indeed, the only real activity on the road now belonged to the red and green space-suited ZAFT soldiers that had infiltrated the colony. The three transport trucks were, also, unharmed – each one carrying a brand-new Mobile Suit and a new ZAFT pilot.

"Hey," Yzak Joule grinned as he began powering up his new unit, the Duel, "The Earth Alliance figured out how to miniaturize beam weaponry – and it even has a pair of laser blades! This is actually amazing, you know, for a bunch of backwards monkeys banging rocks together."

Slowly, the Duel lurched to its feet and slid off of the truck that had been carrying it. The plain gray color scheme actually looked decent for the unit, making it look like a special operations unit, stripped down for higher performance. The single beam rifle and shield also looked rather nasty, and Yzak made sure to have the Duel retrieve those.

"Oooh, nice…" Dearka Elsman couldn't help but grin as he shuffled through his own stolen unit's manual with his right hand, left hand running through the standard startup procedures, "Not only does this sweet unit have those big beam rifles, but those big guns can combine into an even bigger gun. I really like this thing's style."

Silently, the Buster arose, standing next to the Duel. With heavier armor and thicker limbs, the Buster made the Duel look rather plain by comparison. And once Yzak got a good, solid look at the mounted guns on the backpack of the Buster, he couldn't help but feel a little ripped off.

"…what." Yzak's eye twitched as he glared at the now plain armament of his stolen unit his own copy of the virtual instruction manual.

Without warning, a third giant robot leapt to its feet and landed between the Duel and Buster. Dark black and already fully-activated, this one resembled some bizarre combination of ninja and samurai, complete with a massive shield built into the right arm that also looked to be carrying some nasty weaponry. This, Yzak's console told him, was the Blitz.

"…dude, score," Nichol Amalfi's voice cropped up over the radio channel as he ignored Yzak's complaint, "Mine turns invisible whenever I want, and I've got a literal armory shoved onto this thing's right arm. These Naturals must have hired one hell of a mad scientist for this shit."


Within a few minutes of venturing outside the lab, Kira and his friends had found out exactly what had happened, and why Heliopolis had a spacequake…

"I don't know!" was pretty much the most prevalent reply as people flowed from their own laboratories and research stations into the depths of the Morgenroete Technical College and Research Institute. Sure, there were rumors here and there: one about some old TV show's fictional space Nazis unleashing their Roboton Invaders, another person kept screaming about how it was the End Times and how those who did not worship the Almighty Space Whale were doomed to death and to roast in the bowels of Space-Hell.

Finally, some poor bastard stumbling down the corridor in the direction of the emergency shelters stored at Moregenroete knew exactly what was going on:

"Shit's exploding everywhere and ZAFT's murdering everyone!" was what he screamed, streaking past the laboratory.

"Well." Sai sighed as he looked to his friends, "Looks like we're fucked. Who's up for moseying to the shelter?"

"I'm sold." Miriallia popped up as she turned in the direction of the closest shelter.

Tolle was long ahead of her, already rounding the next corner and pushing everyone out of her way.

Kira was just about to speak when the Mystery Girl decided to break from the group and run into the flow of people – shoving everyone away as she bulldozed through people like a manic Black Friday shopper. But that wasn't what Kira or Sai noticed.

Kira turned to Sai and shrugged. A look of understanding passed between the two teens and Sai placed one hand on Kira's shoulder, "Her ass is glorious. Godspeed, Kira Yamato."

With that, Kira and Sai parted ways, each hoping the other survived this insanity long enough to find their girl.

Meanwhile, out in space, some random clips of stock footage were passing for a battle, showing how superior the completely and totally awesome Mobile Suits of ZAFT were compared to space-fighter planes, a random EA troop carrier and worker pods.

Because it's totally awesome and totally not just for saving money on the budget.

It was a long and hard run, but Kira had finally chased down the Mystery Girl. However, he hadn't the slightest clue exactly where they were at the moment. Sure, he'd seen some "Unauthorized Persons Will Be Shot On Sight" signs here and there, but it's not like those were important.

Another explosion rocked the Morgenroete building, sending a blast of hot air and throwing dust everywhere. Kira covered his eyes, letting out a cry of shock as he felt small chunks of rubble and loose papers jet past him. The mystery girl he'd been following did the same, her coat billowing around her. As the dust cloud died down, Kira couldn't help but notice the comically large hat this mystery girl had been wearing had flown off into the wind. And now that Kira had a good look at her face, he realized something.

She was damn hot.

Ok, two things.

"You…" Kira stumbled across his words as he tried to best verbalize his mental panic attack, his arms spasming around him like a broken children's cartoon character watch as he gaped at the Mystery Girl, "You're Princess Cagalli!"

Princess Cagalli Yula Athha of Orb looked blankly at Kira, like a deer caught in front of a stampeding mobile suit. Recovering, she slowly reached a hand up to the top of her head and groaned as her hand met freshly-tussled blonde hair. Her big disguise, blown!

"You tell anyone," Cagali glared at Kira, having finally recovered some form of composure, jabbing a finger into his chest, "and I will end you." She turned to run again, her voice carrying back down the corridor, "And stop following me!"

"With an ass like that?" Kira murmured beneath his breath as he quickly sprinted after the Princess Cagali, "I'd follow you to the ends of the Earth."

After several more twists and turns in the labyrinth of passageways that passed for the Top-Secret section of Morgenroete, Kira and Cagali came out into the bright sunlight of the colony's day cycle. Kira resisted the urge to hiss at the direct application of daylight, as there was a really hot girl standing right next to him. From what Kira could tell, he was standing on a rather nice scaffolding and walkway on the opposite side of the Morgenroete facility – the very side rumored to be rented out to the Earth Alliance for top secret tests.

And it looks like those rumors were rather true, seeing how Kira was looking right down upon two very expensive mobile suits. One looked ridiculously fancy, with curves and pointy bits sticking out of each limb. The other, comparatively, looked incredibly plain with only a nice head to show that it wasn't a ZAFT model. And both were currently guarded by several orange jumpsuit wearing Morgenroete personnel and a few EA soldiers.

Kira was then stunned to hear a sting of loud and filthy expletives erupting from his left, the Princess (and poster-child of clean living and polite conversation in ORB) Cagali. And she didn't stop, continuing to do nothing but scream, rage and beat her fists on the railing of the walkway. Kira could pick up a few words here and there that pertained to Cagali's father and the development of Mobile Suits, so it was pretty easy to figure out what was going on.

"I'm sure your dad will get you one for your birthday," Kira spoke as smoothly as humanly possible when your intended target is busy cursing with so many words that some had not yet been invented, "Come on, we've gotta find a shelter. Now."

Cagali froze, mid-curse, to stare at Kira with a look of utter stupefaction on her face. Taking his chance, Kira dragged her away from the railing and the mysterious Mobile Suits, towards the giant sign proclaiming how there were some totally awesome and comfy shelters just ahead.

After several minutes of getting lost, turned around and generally wandering the endless hallways of Morgenroete, Kira and Cagali finally found the designated shelter. Three rows of small elevators lined the wall, each with a sign that noted the shelter was full up with no room left. Not one to let something like reality stop him, Kira dragged Cagali towards the first tube and jammed a finger into the intercom.

"Hey, anyone there?" Kira panted, exhausted from the mild jogging that it had taken to reach the shelter.

"Is there still someone out there?" came a rather whiny voice from the intercom that sounded for all the world like Don Knotts.

"…yes." Kira replied, wondering exactly how the man on the other side was still breathing if he didn't understand that someone talking meant 'someone' was actually out there, "Two of us. Out here with ZAFT trying to kill us. You know, like everyone else. Open the door!"

There was a long pause as the voice in the shelter stopped whining and actually seemed to think about things before continuing, "We're full up…" came the pathetic excuse, "There's another shelter back beyond the Top Secret Mobile Suit Construction Yard, just hang a right rather than run straight ahead. Can you make it there?"

Both Kira and Cagali turned to look back the way they'd came. Explosions were now dotting the skyline of the colony and pillars of smoke were more common than skyscrapers in Manhattan. It really didn't help that, hey, the sound of gunfire being exchanged was inching closer and closer, accompanied by the lovely chorus of the dead and dying.

Yeah, fuck that.

"Come on," Kira pleaded, yanking Cagali around by her arm as he spoke emphatically, " At least take my friend. I mean, she's just a girl."

Cagali's eyes bulged as her blank face "JUST a girl?!" she yanked her hand away from Kira, drawing her arm back and making a fist – ready to pummel this strange nerd to death, "I'm the Princess Cagali Yula Athha of the 5th House of Orb! Heir to the Holy Rings of-"

"Princess Cagali?!" came the voice from the intercom, the rather bland attitude having flipped a complete 180 with that namedrop, "It'd be an honor to assist our nation's princess!"

Not even waiting for Cagali's reaction, Kira dragged Cagali in front of the elevator's opening door. Cagali, slightly dizzy from all the spinning, wasn't entirely sure what was going on… and that feeling of confusion deepened as she felt someone else's lips brushing against her own.

"W… what?" Cagali stuttered, her eyes wider than dinner plates, "What did yo-"

Kira shrugged, trying his best to look nonchalant, but instead coming off as a bit of a creep, "Well, I'm probably gonna die if I can't get to a shelter," he paused, a grin spreading on his face, "and my friends would probably kill me if I didn't even try to steal a kiss from the Princess of ORB."

If Kira was a mind reader, he might have felt the overflow of intense hatred coming from Cagail's mind. As such, he took her silence and red face as embarrassment, or perhaps mutual attraction. Taking no chances of Cagali doing something stupid again, he shoved her inside the elevator with a simple push. It was rather easy, considering her brain still slightly locked up from having her first kiss stolen by some complete stranger. It took a few seconds more for the elevator to start taking her down into the shelter deep below the surface of Heliopolis.

"Wish me luck!" Kira shouted after Cagali as the tube sucked her down into the shelter.

Satisfied that Princess Cagalli would be somewhat safe, Kira took off running in the direction he'd just come from. There were still people there, which meant there might be a shelter with some room – or at least someone who knew that they were doing. Kira was moving a little faster than he had in getting to the shelter, though.

After all, stealing a kiss from royalty tends to put a bit of a spring in one's step.

As Kira came back across the top-secret Mobile Suit storage area, he saw the few remnants of Morgenroete and the Earth Alliance's mechanics putting up a valiant fight against the invading ZAFT soldiers. It looked to be rather an uneven fight, though, as most of the Morgenroete mechanics had dropped dead, with a few orange-jumpsuited mechanics from the Earth Alliance still fighting and kicking.

Just ahead of him, though, was a green space-suited ZAFT soldier, taking careful aim at one of the mechanics.

And this woman had gigantic boobs, which were plainly visible from the 30+ yards away that Kira was.

"Behind you, look out!" Kira shouted to the racktastic (his words) mechanic protecting the plainer one of the two giant robots, hoping his words wouldn't get either one of them killed.

Without a word, and moving faster than physics should normally allow, the mechanic ducked lower and spun in place, her gun spitting out bullets that killed the ZAFT soldier in seconds. Or would have if she had any ammo in her gun at the moment. Not that it stopped the ZAFT soldier from dying or anything.

This was the sort of physics-defying shit that's been happening every day since the discovery of the N-Jammers, frankly, and many were used to it by now.

"Get to the shelter, goddamnit!" the busty mechanic shouted at Kira, waving him away from the combat zone as she realized her rifle was finally out of ammo, "This is no place for a kid!"

"…I'm in love." Kira mumbled, watching the older woman's bust sway and move with the kind of motion that could only come from incredibly expensive animation budgets. A stray bullet ricocheting off the railing shocked Kira back to reality. Blinking repeatedly, Kira shook his head and pointed to the very doorway that he and Cagali had originally come from, "That one's full up, I'm going back to the other shelter!"

A sudden explosion erupted from that very door, tossing rubble, bodies and more explosions everywhere. Both the mechanic and Kira stared at the smoking rubble in mild surprise, as if they'd expected it to happen.


The mechanic sighed in what had to be some form of disgust (although at the world or her luck, no one knew), "Damn it. Just get down here, then! At the very least, we can keep you sa-"

Kira landed beside the woman, having thrown himself over the railing and landed next to the very bountifully gifted mechanic as if he had floated down with a parachute made of angel wings, "Now what?"


On the other side of the gunfire, Athrun Zala and Rusty Mackenzie were hunkered down behind one of the transport trucks that now lay abandoned. The two of them reloaded their guns, checked their spare ammo kits and nodded to one another in perfect sync.

"I just know the two of us are going to survive this, Athrun," Rusty laughed, that demented grin showing up on his face again, "Not only do you have that hot piece of pop-star ass waiting for you at home, but I'm gonna be asking that cutie Meer out on a date when we get home!"

"What, really?" Athrun's eyes widened in shock, wincing as a ricochet whizzed past his helmet's faceplate, "Meer? God, I guess it's good to know you're still shooting for the stars, Rusty. You know she's not a fan of soldiers."

Rusty stood up and flashed his winning grin again, throwing Athrun a thumbs-up, "She will when she sees the awesome medals of valor that Commander leCreuset promised us." Rusty took to a sprint, pulling around in front of the truck, "Now to go earn it!"

Indeed, Rusty was earning his pay that day. He'd taken out no less than four non-combatants and several brave EA soldiers earlier. Now, all he had to do was jump right up to one of the two giant robots and victory would be his!

Unfortunately, this brought him right in the sights of Murrue's well-armed and well-aimed pistol – now pointed almost literally point-blank into his normal suit's faceplace.

"Oh Space Whal-" came from Rusty's mouth before he was cut off by the hail of bullets being thrown at him by Murrue's pistol.

"RUSTYYYYYYY!" came Athrun's angst-ridden cry as he vaulted over the truck bed, firing his gun wildly in the brunette's mechanic's direction. Much unlike her earlier bulletless assault, Athrun's hail of gunfire somehow almost completely missed her – save a single bullet that nailed her in the shoulder.

Kira scrambled over to her, his hands reaching for the mechanic's gun. Athrun, meanwhile, cursed loudly as he found that his gun had somehow run out of ammunition. Throwing it aside, he pulled out his ZAFT-issue combat knife and began what felt like an incredibly slow charge towards the wounded mechanic and innocent life.

Hearing Athrun's inhuman wail of angst, Kira turned, his eyes wide and in shock. Athrun's eyes met Kira's an-

…and I'm being told we've sold some of our page space to a flashback sequence. Not sure I like this, but it's apparently integral to the story.

Again, we cut back to the incredibly cliché cherry blossom petal storm, where Kira and Athrun are saying their fond farewells. Since this is a flashback, of course, this is presented in an incredibly soft light, making Athrun again look like a woman.

And Kira wasn't looking much better.

"We'll be best friends, Athrun!" Kira couldn't help but smile creepily at his best friend.


"Of course!"


"…cut that out."


"That shit's not cool!" came a cry from offscreen, a ridiculously deep voice that obviously belonged to the one and only Lelouche Lamperouge.

Well! We're obviously going to get sued. Might as well wrap this up in the meantime.

After experiencing such an incredibly important and relevant flashback, both Athrun and Kira looked visibly shaken. It was just the chance the mechanic needed to fire off a few warning shots at Athrun, forcing him away from her and Kira.

As Athrun retreated behind the cover of the second mobile suit, Miss Racktastic took her chances and threw Kira into the open cockpit hatch of the mobile suit she'd defended, dropping in after him.

Finally regaining consciousness from the mild concussion the landing had given him, Kira looked about the cockpit of the mobile suit he'd been thrown into. Sitting in the only chair, the engineer's fingers flew over the seemingly out of place keyboard in front of her, activating the mobile suit's systems one by one with a practiced skill. Words began to appear on the view screen in front of Kira and the rather… endowed woman who'd thrown him into the giant robot alongside her. Had this been any other time or place, Kira would have never minded being in a tight space with a rather attractive older woman and wouldn't have been able to take his eyes off her. As this was rather extenuating circumstances, Kira's eyes were more drawn to the activating systems of this mobile suit.










Version NVS - N099

Kira blinked as he read what the acronym spelt out aloud, "E.A.G.L.E.?"

There was a pause, the boy trying to not interrupt the woman's bootup procedure… but did anyway as patted the mechanic on the shoulder with a somewhat shaky hand, "My name's Kira. Kira Yamato. Thank you fo-"

"Lieutenant Murrue Ramius," the woman grunted as she finished the required keystrokes to cold boot the mobile suit, not bothering to wait for Kira to finish as she wiped her brown bangs away from her eyes, "And don't bother asking me about the acronym. I work on getting these damned things to move, not writing the operating system."

As the massive war machine lurched off the ground, Kira gripped his side of the pilot's seat with white knuckles. Despite being busy concentrating on not hyperventilating over how simultaneously awesome and horrifying this day had been (mostly horrifying, for those keeping score), Kira Yamato looked around in confusion as what sounded like a piano began to play. More began to join the piano, a woman's voice singing a slow, soft tune and a violin to accompany it.

We were so close together, but the twilight has a different color now.
The abundance of kindness onl-

Murrue let out a loud curse as she lashed out with her leg, kicking just right of the cockpit hatch. Abruptly, the song filling the Strike's cockpit cut off, a faint static noise replacing it. Noticing Kira's confusion, Murrue decided to explain the one thing she did understand happening that day.

"One of the techs decided it'd help pass the time by installing a music player in the Strike," she explained, a soft smile on her lips, "They never got it to work quite right, though."

However, the smirk quickly vanished as she watched the Aegis Gundam flee from the area, Athrun Zala having made the most of his situation, "The captain's going to have my ass for this, I just know it," a sigh escaped her lips as her hands gripped the control sticks of the Strike tighter.

Murrue Ramius' mood was certainly in the dumps. Not only did ZAFT decide to attack this completely innocent colony and slaughter completely innocent soldiers of an enemy force who would gladly have returned the favor if the situations were reversed, but she'd been powerless to stop ZAFT from taking four of the five brand-new mobile weapons of de-

Murrue's pity party was interrupted by a thematic explosion erupting behind the Strike Gundam as the flames engulfing the area finally reached some conveniently-placed fuel tanks. The explosion lit the Gundam from behind, leaving only the amber eyes lit up as the one detail that any possible onlookers could make out.

The force from the explosion also happened to send the Strike slowly tipping forward onto its face, making a rather pitiful "whunk" as it landed.

"Great," Murrue sighed as she tried to pick herself up from the front view screen inside the Strike, not to mention trying to make sure she didn't smother Kira, who had tumbled beneath her, "And I thought this day couldn't get any worse."

"I'm fine," came the muffled reply of Kira Yamato, perfectly satisfied with where he was.