"In war, innocence is always the first casualty."
- George Glenn
June 15, C.E. 71
Is this what the end of the world feels like?
That one thought was all that ran through Shinn Asuka's head as he and his family continued their run through the Onogoro wilderness, desperately trying to reach the port as what historians would later refer to as the Battle of Orb played out around them. They, like the rest of the island, had evacuated as soon as the call had been given out, but the battle had erupted far more quickly, and now they were in the middle of it. For Shinn, who was only fourteen years old and had grown up in a land previously untouched by war, it really did feel like Armageddon.
Thunder boomed from the sky as cannons sounded and missiles exploded. Shrapnel rained down in torrents as metal was obliterated. Heat and smoke filled the air to the point that one felt them with all five senses; it was only by fortune that the smell of cooked flesh wasn't intertwined with it, at least in the Asuka family's immediate vicinity. But even so, all four of them, from Shinn and his younger sister Mayu to their father, Kouji, and their mother, Rin, knew that people were dying. Some were dying trying to kill them, while others were dying protecting them, but all the same, they were dying.
Though the battle had only begun, the worst vestiges of the Bloody Valentine War were surfacing in rapid succession. Shinn only had a vague idea what was going on, though his keeping up with current times combined with boredom fueled sessions of internet research gave him a vague idea. On one side were the invaders: the Earth Alliance, specifically the Atlantic Federation's Third Naval Fleet, whose various ships barraged the island with missile and cannon fire while its carrier force launched F-7D Spearhead fighters and GAT-01 Strike Dagger mobile suits inland. These forces were, in turn, supported by airborne drops from carrier planes, such that the whole sky seemed to be filled with parachutes and Strike Daggers. On the other were the valiant soldiers of the Orb Union, whose home defense installations and MBF-M1 M1 Astray mobile suits fought desperately to hold the tide. Supplementing them was the Archangel, a former Atlantic Federation warship that had defected to Orb after the Battle of JOSH-A, bringing its own collection of mobile suits and soldiers with it.
Altogether the battle's outcome was still in the air, but from Shinn Asuka's immediate perspective, that hardly mattered. The only thing that mattered now was survival.
By now they were mostly down the slope. As such, the family briefly stopped to catch their breath, while Kouji looked up to make sure there weren't any MS nearby."Dad!" Shinn called out to him, nervousness in his voice evident. As was the nervousness in Mayu and Rin.
At that, Shinn's father adapted a reassuring look. "It's alright." he stated factually. "Their targets are likely the military facilities."
Shinn nodded in agreement. While he didn't know what was going through the minds of the EA command, he doubted they had come all this way to Orb to slaughter civilians, coordinator or no. There had to be a more ulterior motive, though he wouldn't find out until much later on what that was.
"Let's hurry." Kouji told his family, causing the four to start moving again. The port was visible now, such that Shinn could see a Astray and two AA batteries in the distance, firing at unseen targets. However, what was more important was that they could now see the refugee ship; it wasn't long now until they reached relative safety. That is, assuming the EA forces didn't deliberately target the ship.
But that was not all they saw. In an instant, a pair of craft swooped down over them, passing overhead and kicking up the air. Shinn was just barely able to make these new machines out, but he could tell they were at least one mobile suit and one mobile armor, with the former riding on top of the latter. When he looked up, he saw both machines more clearly as they attacked a group of Astrays; one was a deep blue tinted model that was heavily laden firepower, ranging from the cannons on its back to the oversized bazooka in its right arm and the gun equipped shield in its left. The second was a black, bird shaped mobile armor with large wings, metal claws underneath and what appeared to be a mobile suit head at its center.
The machines were obviously special models, as they had no problems desolating the Astrays, causing more heated air to kick up. Again Shinn and his family ducked, just as the blue machine jumped off its partner and landed, then angling up and firing its cannons at a new target. Shinn didn't see what that target was, but he heard the sound of a beam rifle shot, causing him and the others to instantly vault up and sprint before the shot landed.
"Dear!" Rin shouted to her husband, the horror catching up to them faster now. She then looked back at Mayu, who was struggling to keep up. "Come on Mayu!" she shouted to the young girl, who was doing all she could not to look back.
Suddenly, Mayu stumbled over a nearby rock, causing her pink phone to fall from her purse. Worry over a personal possession momentarily overriding her survival instinct, she turned and looked back at the phone. "Oh no! My cellphone!" she shouted as she watched it drop down the slope.
"Never mind that!" Rin shouted back to her daughter, who was now struggling to release herself from her mother's grip to retrieve the device. "We have to go!"
Realizing that Mayu, who was only seven years old and not fully realizing the depth of the situation, would not let up until she had her phone back, Shinn quickly moved into action. Ignoring the calls from his mother and father, he jumped down the slope and proceeded to slide along, using the loose dirt for mobility. It wasn't long before he closed in on the wayward phone, stopping himself on a nearby tree. From there, he reached out and picked it up.
It was at that point where the world exploded around him.
Letting out an instinctive cry of shock, Shinn felt himself get flung into the air as intense heat and fire ignited around him. By the time he touched the ground again, he was at the very bottom of the slope; or at least, that's what he assumed, as the ground he landed on was a lot harder and pavement-like than the dirt he had been running on.
"Attend to the wounded!" he heard someone yell in the distance, above the ringing in his ears. "Send them a signal that this is a refugee ship!"
That combined with the pain he was feeling was enough indication to Shinn that he was still alive. Slowly he struggled to get himself up, though it was a more difficult task than he had expected.
"Are you alright!?" he heard someone call, running over to him. He then felt a pair of strong arms pull him up; looking up, he saw that his savior was wearing an Orb Defense Force uniform, with the rank insignia denoting him a Lieutenant Commander.
A second later, his memory kicked back in, as well as the realization that he was the only one down the slope. "Where's Dad? Mom?" he just managed to breath. At first it was a struggle, but when he finally looked back up the slope, he instantly forgot his physical pains. "Where's Mayu!?"
Looking up in horror, he saw that the slope was effectively destroyed; nothing but up turned dirt and lingering fire remained where there had been trees and grassland. A testament to the power of beam weaponry, as no other form of non-WMD firepower could create such destruction in one place. And even worse, there was no sign of Shinn's family within the dirt.
At least, not until a second later. Looking down, Shinn saw a familiar arm sticking out of the rubble. "Mayu!" he shouted, running over to the spot, ignoring the call from the ODF officer as he did.
Once he got there however, everything changed. Looking down and gasping in horror, Shinn saw that it wasn't his little sister laying in the dirt; rather, it was simply his little sister's arm, severed just above the elbow, laying in the dirt. For a moment, all Shinn could do was stare at the severed limb, until he could eventually muster up the strength to look up to see where the rest of his sister was. A big mistake.
Mayu laid further up the hill, her body smattered across the ground in a puddle of blood. Shinn wasn't near her, but his enhanced sense of smell could already pick up the stench of burnt flesh emanating from her corpse, just as his superior vision could also pick up wisps of smoke drifting up from her body.
Not far from her was his mother's body, which was crumpled in an irregular and seemingly physically impossible condition, her arms and legs twisted in odd angles. A lake of blood also lay underneath her, spread out in a manner befitting a murder scene from a police drama; all that was missing was the chalk outline and detectives lingering overhead to inspect the body.
And then, after once again drawing the nerve to look further, Shinn angled his gaze a little higher and found his father. What remained of Kouji Asuka laid strung out on the hillside, his body's lower half severed by a fallen tree, with an even larger mass of blood than either his wife and daughter spreading from underneath him. His face was frozen in a silent scream, with his eyes and mouth both wide open.
Clutching Mayu's cellphone, Shinn slowly stumbled forward, then lowering himself to his knees. As he reached out for Mayu's arm, tears came down his face as he choked out sobs, such that he found himself unable to move. Soon enough, the tears became unending, while Shinn once more struggled to breath. He wanted to vomit, but even that was impossible for him now. A minute ago he had been right beside his family, and they were just about to make it to the port. Now they were all gone.
All gone. He was alone.
Unfortunately he didn't have time to grieve. Above him, the mobile suit battle continued, as one of the suits swooped over once again. Slowly looking up, Shinn watched as the two units battled their opponent: a single unit tinted in black, white and blue, possessing massive wing binders, almost angel-like in design. He watched as that unit fired upon the other two and a third green armored unit with enlarged shields, only to see the beams "curve" around the shield mobile suit as if they were redirected.
Upon the sight of them, Shinn at long last felt his sorrow give way to rage, causing him to lift up his head and let out an infuriated scream. All the while the Battle of Orb continued to play out around him.
Author's Notes: Ah Gundam SEED Destiny. After Gundam Wing, the one Gundam series everyone loves to hate. Not that it doesn't deserve some of that hate, as it is indeed one of the worst Gundam series out there (though I have my own opinions on what is the worst). However, I can't help but feel sympathetic toward it, as it wasn't entirely a disaster; the beginning was actually pretty good, and some of the MS designs (hated back in the day) and characters (as underused as they were) have since grown on me. That sympathy is further emphasized when the same people that criticized Destiny up and down turned around when Gundam 00 came out and either blatantly ignored or apologized (in the original definition of the word) when the same faults were repeated (underused characterization, pointless political intrigue, convoluted plot, the "good guys" being unquestionably "right" in their cause, the main character being a "savior", etc.).
But that's all beside the point. Fact is Gundam SEED Destiny failed to live up to its true potential; whether it was due to production staff infighting, the main character being a Jerkass taken Up To Eleven (doesn't help that he was based on one of the worst Gundam protagonists in the franchise) or simply due to Executive Meddling, Destiny dropped the ball from where SEED left off. If there is one benefit to that however, it's that fanfiction writers are succeeding where Bandai failed (as usual); several authors have taken a crack at Destiny to date, with a few of them (namely ShadowCell and Juubi-K) putting forth renditions that are not only better than the original, but also better than most other Gundam series period. In that sense, since I've come a long way with Megiddo, I decided I would like to take a try at Destiny too.
As for Megiddo itself, don't worry, that series will always be my main focus. Even so, I hope my readers will at least give my Destiny the same chance.