Nicol's Savior

Me: (banging head on desk) Hate fight scenes...haaaaate!

Rey Za Burrel: (rolls eyes) Well you're writing Gundam fanfiction, woman. You're going to have to get used to them.

Me: (drops a colony on writer's block) I'm trying! But it's hard! Harder than people interacting!

Rey: (sighs) Okay. Portray me sympathetically in one of your hundred new ideas clamoring at the doorstep (indicates blocked off door which rattles and screams loudly) and I'll try and help you.

Me: Deal.

Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam SEED/Destiny.

Chapter 13: Battle for Orb pt 3

Mayu screamed as something exploded near their bus; the driver pulled a hard left throwing her against the cracked window and her friend Feldt against her. The pinkette whimpered and clutched Mayu's hand, seeking solace in their close companionship. "We're gonna die, we're gonna die, we're gonna die," someone was sobbing right behind them, barely audible above the other kids crying out or begging for help. Mayu was torn between shrieking at them to shut up and curling up into a ball of existential despair and terror. All she could hear was screaming, crying, the driver cursing while trying to use the radio, and explosions...

It was like the world was ending.

Mayu wrapped her arms around Feldt and buried her face in her shoulder, sobbing, wishing Shinn and mom and dad were here. She was barely old enough to realize that her parents couldn't protect her from everything, and now her fate was dangling by a thread... "I'm here, Feldt," She whispered, clutching her hand. "I'm here."

"I'm scared, Mayu," Feldt whispered back, eyes shining with tears. "I'm so scared. Please don't let go."

Mayu nodded as much as she could in her position, pressing Feldt even closer so their fears could be one, shared by them both. The bus skidded to another violent halt; mobile suits had cut off the exit just a ways away, they had no choice but to sit and pray they'd move without noticing an easy target... Briefly Mayu wondered what the last thing she said to her parents was. Did she say that she loved them? She couldn't remember what she said when she woke up in the morning. What had she said to Shinn? What if she died out in this horrible place and the last thing she said to him was some temper tantrum about not being allowed to play his games?

Mayu sobbed harder. She couldn't remember. She just couldn't remember. She hoped Shinn remembered her saying 'I love you' at some point. "F-Feldt..."

She tried to say that she was her very best friend, but the words got stuck in her throat.

Feldt, however, seemed to understand. She looked up, bright eyed, and nodded rapidly, her hands moving to Mayu's wrists and squeezing them like she did whenever they saw a scary scene in a movie, or when they went on roller coasters.

The Strike Daggers – three of them – had walked down the street and were facing the bus. Mayu shut her eyes. She didn't want to see her end coming.

Then she heard something explode. Three explosions, actually.

After a few long seconds seemed to indicate she was still alive...that could be the only way her heart was still hammering painfully in her chest...Mayu tilted her head and looked up. A damaged M1 was standing near their bus; gun pointed at the smoking remains of the Daggers. It turned to the right and snapped off a shot into the distance – she didn't see anything nearby, but it hit something because there was a crash several yards off to the side.

Unable to let go of Feldt, but wondering who had come to their rescue, Mayu twisted in her friend's arms and pressed towards the window.

The M1 swung around and scanned the bus for a moment. Then it knelt down and picked the broken vehicle up, tucking it under one arm – all the kids shrieked as the bus shuddered and groaned, but it beat being stuck on the road, surrounded by enemies.

"Someone came to find us..." Mayu mumbled to Feldt. Her friend sobbed with relief.

Who had the time?

**~With Kira~**

"You're terminated!"

"I'm beginning to think I should just switch my communicator off," Kira said with uncharacteristic dryness, nimbly dodging around the Raider's Mjollnir and firing his railguns at the opposing machine, catching it in the right arm. The appendage melted, prompting a furious, almost inhuman shriek of rage from the pilot.

"Not much worth listening to," Athrun agreed before slicing at the Forbidden again. Fortune smiled on him; either the pilot was tiring or he was starting to learn their patterns – he swiped across one of the shield's emitters, disabling it. Shani, not one for over the top reactions, merely glowered and fell further back, clearly debating whether or not to cut his losses. "Well, the good news is they should be running out of power soon!"

"I hope so!" Kira said, dodging past Calamity in HiMat mode as the machine fired recklessly at him. The machine might be technically superior to the Buster, but Dearka's capabilities and discipline (and continued grasp on sanity, it should be noted) provided him advantages that Orga did not have. All the drug induced upgrades in the world couldn't compete with that. Make your enemy the Ultimate Coordinator, and, well...

"Watch out, Kira!"

Nicol's warning arrived in tandem with the bark of his radar; Kira threw the Freedom in a spin and narrowly dodged past the Raider, who was still fighting despite his handicap. Blitzkrieg fired the upgraded, PSA-piercing lancer darts at the machine to keep it away while Kira regained his bearings. "Thanks Nicol," He said in relief.

"What's up with these three?" Nicol asked, a mix of bewilderment and uneasiness plain in his voice. The three Alliance suits, despite being heavily damaged and missing some of their weapons/defensive capabilities, arrayed themselves against their opponents without any sign of slowing down. "They've lasted longer than anyone else..."

"I think we need a plan." Clotho said, eyeing the three most advanced mobile suits in the ZAFT/Orb lineup with a frustrated scowl. He'd never had this sort of trouble before!

"Oh? And how long did it take you to come up with that, genius?" Orga scathed.

"I don't see you coming up with any bright ideas, Orga! Running around, getting in the way of half my shots-" Clotho retorted, swinging towards the Raider.

"You're the one who gets in the way," Shani muttered darkly.

"What was that?!"

If mobile suits were somewhat sentient – and mimicked their pilots – the Freedom, Justice and Blitzkrieg would have exchanged utterly confused looks as their enemy pilots bickered, completely ignoring them in favour of shouting at each other heedless to the battle around them. Athrun was about to take the initiative and fire at the distracted pilots when suddenly all three screamed – horrible, wrenching screams comparable to ones extracted by torture. Kira and Nicol's eyes widened.

Without further ado, the Raider transformed, grabbed the Calamity and headed for the shore, with the Forbidden flying in hot pursuit.

"...What?" Kira asked simply, shaken.

"I don't know." Athrun responded, to all the potential questions wound up in that word – he could guess at several. "I think we've got a new job for ZAFT intelligence."

Nicol nodded in silent agreement.

Kira's radio crackled, and another line came in. "Commander?"

"Yeah? What is it, DaCosta?"

"We've got a civilian bus missing. A bunker caved in and we had to evacuate, but the road suffered damage that forced them to detour. If you're not occupied -"

"I'm not," Kira promised. "I'm on my way. Athrun, Nicol, round up the rest?"

"Of course/Be careful."

Kira peeled away from his squad and flew across the damaged landscape of Orb. Mitigated losses, he thought with sadness and disgust as he looked down at what the once peaceful nation had suffered. If this is the positive outcome of an invasion here, I don't want to know what the worse would be. It was hard to see this sort of thing and know that most of the chatter going out of the Command structure was positive. For all he'd gone through over the past half a year, Kira was still a gentle soul and he mourned every death and loss.

He followed the road indicated and glared at the sight. A single M1, now missing an arm, was backed up protecting a bus from several Strike Daggers. Evidently the Earth Forces weren't happy they were loosing.

One volley with his multi-lock system put paid to their plans for revenge.

Kira could faintly hear cheers coming from the bus as he alit down next to the damaged M1. "Do you need help?" He asked the pilot.

He had to choke back a surprised cry when the video flickered on, revealing a dirty, wide eyed thirteen year old. His red eyes were wide as disks and weirdly dilated, in a way Kira had come to recognize from Simmons's tests.

SEED.

**~With Shinn~**

Shinn was only vaguely aware of the strange state of raised awareness he was experiencing. It was as if his entire world had narrowed down; he knew exactly what he needed to do, how to do it, and how to keep doing it. Despite never being in spitting distance of a mobile suit in his life, he was handling it with the capabilities of someone with a storied history – yet none of the information seemed to come from his brain. It was all his instincts. His need to protect that bright yellow bus.

He'd shot down six or seven Daggers as he tried to guide the bus away from the war zone that was Morganrate – however, there was simply no safe place to go, so they were stopped on the street. Having to defend and attack at the same time caused most of the damage to his suit...if it weren't for the heightened awareness, he would have been sobbing or frozen with terror.

Then the Freedom swooped in, every bit the angel it was designed to invoke. All of Shinn's current enemies went up in smoke, causing him to start and sit back.

"Do you need help?"

That's funny, Shinn thought distantly. He doesn't sound old, like the other soldiers. He sounds a little like me. A thought jolted him. Mayu! They may be safer than they were a moment ago – much safer, the freakin Freedom was standing right in front of him – but he had to get her out of here. He fumbled with the controls until he turned on the video communication.

The Freedom's pilot – a handsome young man with brown hair and violet eyes, resplendent in the white suit that proclaimed him a ZAFT commander – gawked at him. "Oh my god," He gasped.

"Mayu," Shinn croaked, waving his free hand towards the bus. "My sister...Mayu. Had to save her...please."

For a couple of seconds, the commander was speechless. Then he blinked a few times, shook his head to clear it, and said in a stern tone, "Can the bus move at all?"

Shinn nodded, clutching the controls until his knuckles whitened.

"Follow my instructions, then. I'll get you out of here." That came out less as a command and more of a soothing promise. Shinn nodded again, unable to really speak, his mind still in the strange haze. The Freedom turned towards the bus and said something on the loudspeakers he didn't catch; moments later it took to the sky. Shinn began to stride towards Morganrate, just behind the bus, eyes trailing the sky. It seemed to him, though he didn't want to get his hopes up, that the Alliance forces were fleeing.

Then it's almost over.

Why did that thought make him really tired?

**~A short while later~**

"A kid?" Athrun repeated, jumping out of the Justice's cockpit and hurrying down the ladder. They were in the Morganrate complex closest to Kaguya, which was in the best shape due to being heavily defended. The Freedom was kneeling next to a damaged M1 which had come in with a civilian bus. Kira had babbled something on the communications after arriving that he was rather hoping he'd misheard.

Unfortunately, the technicians pried the cockpit open at that exact moment; Kira jumped in...and came up a few seconds later, precariously carrying a motionless boy in his arms.

Athrun bolted from the foot of his machine and scaled the downed M1 to help; Nicol was at their side a few seconds later providing a med bed for them. Athrun stared as Kira carefully arranged the boy on it so he looked like he was sleeping, horror and rage rushing through him in equal measure. Small mercy was welcome – the boy was breathing evenly and didn't seem to be injured. Physically, anyway.

He was a child for god's sake, a bloody child – he was even smaller than Nicol, and Athrun was sure that he couldn't be more than twelve – maybe thirteen.

"How-?" Nicol started.

"SEED." Kira responded shortly. Nicol and Athrun both stared. "I saw it, in his eyes – they were flared out the same way mine do when mine activates. It's the only way he could have done it."

"Done what?" Athrun asked.

"Destroyed Daggers on his own. There were a number lying around where I found him." Kira explained; he gently reached out and brushed the boy's black hair away from his face. His expression was somewhere between parental, anguished and angry.

"How'd he access that thing?" Athrun asked, gesturing to the M1.

"Part of the control panel exploded; I think the previous pilot was injured and abandoned it." Kira nodded at Henie and Lunamaria as they approached. Luna was gawking at the injured boy, while Henie looked grave. "The controls and weapons were salvageable; and SEED did the rest."

"Why was he out of the shelter?" Nicol wondered.

"SHINN!"

"That answer your question?" Kira asked wryly as a tiny black haired girl pushed and shoved her way through the crowd – kicking a soldier in the shin in order to do so – and rushed towards the bed like grey lightning. She skidded to a halt and stared up at the three of them for a moment; when Nicol smiled gently at her and stepped aside, giving her access to the boy's bed, she immediately threw herself at it and grabbed at the boy's hand.

"Shinn! Shinn!" She sobbed. "Wake up! You have to wake up!"

"He said his little sister was on the bus," Kira explained as Henie and Lunamaria caught up.

"That would explain it," Henie said sagely. Lunamaria, meanwhile, checked Shinn's pulse. Upon being satisfied, she gently clapped her hands on the girl's shoulders, getting her attention.

"Hey! Hey, don't cry. Your big brother's alright. He's gonna be just fine," She promised.

The girl looked at her with wide, teary eyes. "But he won't wake up!"

"He's just worn out." Lunamaria said, glancing at Kira for confirmation. When he nodded, she looked back at the girl and went on, "Heroics are tiring. But don't you worry – we'll get him a doctor and everything's gonna be fine." The girl looked faintly hopeful. "Hey, what's your name?"

"M-Mayu. Mayu Asuka." She timidly offered.

"Pretty name for a pretty girl," Lunamaria complimented before taking Mayu's hand. "How about I help you find your parents? Don't worry. The Commander will take care of your brother."

Mayu looked torn for a moment; part of her wanted to stay with Shinn. She turned and stared hard at the three older boys for a few seconds before apparently judging them safe people to leave Shinn with, and trotted after Luna as the older girl headed towards logistics.

"Remind me to thank her later," Kira said in relief. Even though his gut told him he'd run into more scenes like that, and those ones would not have happy endings, he was glad to see at least one family reunited.

"She has practice," Henie said, in reference to Luna's sister Meyrin, who assisted with communications aboard the Eternal. "So this boy has SEED? What do you plan to do?"

That was a loaded question. "List him as a bearer of the ability and commend him for what happened today," Kira responded firmly. "Nothing more. He isn't old enough to enlist under either Orb or ZAFT standard; and even desperate measures should not include involving more children in this conflict." He glanced down at Shinn and muttered, "At least I was in college..."

Athrun silently slid his hand into Kira's while Nicol nodded in agreement. Henie seemed pleased by that. "Indeed. I believe Lord Athha and Chairman Clyne are expecting you in the briefing."

"Thanks. You and Shiho take care of things here." Kira added that as an afterthought, and it still sounded more like a request than an order from a superior. Nevertheless Henie smiled, saluted and went to round up the squad.

**~Line Break~**

"The island is holding," Uzumi said, once Kira, Cagalli, Athrun, Murrue and Mu, Waltfeld and Aisha, Jason, Tristan, Felicity and Heidi were together in the main office at Kaguya. "I believe the Alliance has realized they cannot force our combine forces out. However, this leaves a problem I wasn't anticipating."

"A problem?" Jason enquired.

"We cannot stay here," Siegel responded, his brow furrowing. "The conflict won't end unless we can confront Old ZAFT and destroy the GENISIS canon. Unfortunately we don't have enough people still inside the PLANTs for an inside job to be feasible, especially with the rise in security. That, and Zala has made use of Mirage Colloid to hide GENISIS's exact location from all outside his inner circle. An up front confrontation may be our only hope."

"So we need to go to space," Heidi said, brow furrowing. "But we can't leave Orb undefended. So some of us have to stay behind."

"I hate to be this person," Felicity prefaced before saying, "but can we really afford to split our forces further at this point? We fight two enemies with vastly more resources. I think we need to stay together."

"True," Uzumi said calmly before Cagalli could go into a rage, "however an army cannot function without resource points. The Alliance came to Orb first because they believed it was an easier target than Victoria. We have discouraged that notion; I believe it is safe for some of you to move on."

"We don't have a choice," Siegel agreed. "Archangel, Eternal, Izumo and Odin's Lance will take Kaguya tomorrow. Commander Yamato and Lieutenant Zala will cover you in transit."

"Understood," Murrue said. Kira and Athrun just nodded silently. For the first time since it's launch, the Archangel's bay was actually full – its loadout consisted of Freedom, Justice, Blitzkrieg, Grand Buster, and Kira's ZAKU team. The Izumo, meanwhile, carried eight Astrays including Asagi's team. The Eternal was largely managing a new weapons platform – the METEORs. Siegel largely described them as a last resort weapon – the overwhelming and precise firepower had only one use. Poor Athrun had become utterly pale when he realized what that meant.

At the end of the briefing, Kira was about to head out when Uzumi put a hand on his shoulders. "Commander Yamato, may I borrow you for a moment?"

Kira blinked and nodded, waving for Athrun to go on ahead. His friend nodded, looking curious as Uzumi lead Kira away...along with Cagalli.

Uzumi brought him aside to a living room, and Kira blinked at the inhabitants. "Mom! Dad!" He called in surprise; he hadn't seen them in nearly a year. He thought of how he'd avoided them during his first arrival at Orb and felt somewhat ashamed; he had let his stress get the better of him.

Caridad shot out of her chair and rushed over to embrace her son. He woofed slightly at the impact and quickly tried to steady her, earning an apologetic smile. "Oh Kira," She whispered, clinging to him. "I'm so glad you're okay! I heard...oh..."

"I'm sorry mom," Kira said softly, rubbing her back. "I'm fine, really...I meant to show up sooner, but..."

Haruna walked up next, examining him with a look that was both nervous and prideful. He put a hand on Kira's shoulder. "Look at you, Commander. You've moved up in the world."

"I guess," Kira said with a uncertain shrug, gently prying his mother away and getting her to sit down again. Cagalli was watching him with something like envy; Uzumi's wife Sayla had died when she was too young to remember her. Haruna sat on Kira's left, glancing uncertainly at Uzumi.

Kira was somewhat puzzled. While he knew that Uzumi wasn't as aloof towards his people as nobles were frequently wont to be, it struck him as odd that his parents knew their Chief Representative personally. He felt like there was something missing here.

Uzumi sat next to Cagalli on the couch across from them, and seemed to sigh. "I don't believe there's a reason to hide it anymore," he said. "As you see, the children have met."

Haruna hesitated. "Sir, with respect, doesn't Kira have enough to worry about right now?"

"Worry about? Dad...what's all this about?" Kira asked in confusion.

"It's because of what he is now at the centre of that I believe he should know," Uzumi responded, though there was some hesitation in his eyes. "Better he learns it here than somewhere else. I believe information about that project has been leaked."

Caridad took a shaky breath. "I...I see."

"What's going on?!" Cagalli exploded. "Will somebody just spit it out?"

Caridad locked her fingers together and looked pleadingly at Kira. "Have I told you much about my sister, Kira?" She asked. He hesitantly shook his head. "Well, she was married to a man – an incredible scientist named Hibiki. He was one of the most skilled gene doctors in history. However...he was a very ambitious man. He believed...he believed that he could create a perfect human being. A paragon, more capable than even other coordinators. When my sister grew pregnant, he...he had her son removed from her womb and placed in an artificial one to make the 'upgrades' possible."

Her eyes grew tearful. "That boy was you, Kira."

Kira's entire world rocked. "Wh...what?"

She nodded at Cagalli. "However, the womb was expensive, and difficult to maintain. When she had her second child, he tried to see if the same treatment would work...it didn't, but it did make her a coordinator. You...you two were born Kira and Cagalli Hibiki."

Kira fingers were cold. He locked them together, and his heart longed for Athrun or Nicol to be with him right now to steady his fragile world. Cagalli, for the first time in her life, was stunned completely speechless. "W...Why? I...I'm some sort of science experiment?"

"You're my son!" Caridad insisted. "I've been afraid of telling you this story for years because I didn't know what people would think of you! I was afraid...afraid they'd fear you, that you wouldn't be safe from rejection even among other coordinators. I was afraid people would try to exploit you and what you can do..."

Kira's mind went back – way back – to the first time he had used the Strike. "That's why I could rewrite a mobile suit's OS mid battle," he said dully. "Because of what Hibiki did to me?"

"Entirely possible." Uzumi said. "Even with what few records survived Blue Cosmos's attack on Mendel don't cover the extent of what he believed you'd be capable of. But if you weren't a bright young man already, I doubt those abilities would have been much use."

Kira felt dizzy. He wanted to find Nicol. The pianist always seemed to know what to say.

"You're my mom," he said quietly, to Caridad. "I...I don't have any other." The denial is somewhat pointless, but he can't help himself. He just wanted one part of his life to be steady.

Cagalli seemed to realize this. She eschewed the loud, violent reaction she initially intended to hurry over and hug him. Kira's response was numb. He has an awful sense that he's in shock and will break down later. At least his parents are still here. The Ultimate Coordinator.

What did that even mean?

**~Elsewhere~**

Shinn groans as the world came back into focus with really bright lights. His head was pounding and his memory was fuzzy. He tried to raise one hand to shield his face, wincing at how leaden his muscles felt. How did he get in here?

M1. Bunker collapsed. Protecting a school bus. Right.

Holy shit, that was me? I did that? How?

"Oh! You're finally awake."

Shinn blinks the bright lights out of his eyes and twisted his head to the right, finding himself nearly face to face with the kind young pilot of Blitzkrieg, and if he weren't so tired he would have jumped out of his skin because what was one of ZAFT's new war heroes doing by his bedside?

"Shinn!" Mayu launched herself at his bed, grabbing his arm and smiling brightly at him. "Shinn, you're awake! MOM! DAD!"

Shinn feels something uncoil in his chest – relief and happiness, knowing his parents were alright, his sister was alright, even though she's hurting his ears as she goes to the door hollering for them – the pilot, Nicol Amalfi, puts one hand on the side of his bed and says, "You were incredibly brave yesterday."

"What...what did I even do?" Shinn asked fuzzily, before realizing his mistake. "Er, sir! Sorry, sir."

Nicol laughed gently; Shinn smiles because the other boy has very kind eyes. Everything about him sings of sincerity. "Don't worry about it. What happened was that you manifested a unique ability that draws out all your potential."

"I...remember feeling weird. Like my awareness was expanded." Shinn waved slightly, then tried to sit up. He was stiff, but otherwise he felt just fine. "I just...knew what I had to do. I felt – funny. Godlike, almost."

Nicol nodded and then put something in Shinn's hand. The black haired youth blinked at it a couple of times before gawking; it was a golden star, one of Orb's highest honours for civilian bravery. "You did very well, Shinn Asuka."

Shinn stuttered wordlessly; he'd be so embarrassed if he weren't shocked. Mayu ran back in with his parents Ricardo and Ryoko and crushed him in another hug. Nicol smiled and excused himself, leaving the family to their devices.

I hope he never has to fight again, the pianist thought to himself. But if it is necessary, even sometime in the future when Patrick Zala is dead and gone, I hope he's one of our new recruits.

Though that headstrong recklessness might need minding.

End Chapter

Was going to add Athrun and Nicol's reaction to the whole Ultimate Coordinator news, but decided to save that for next chapter when they go to space. Also I really wish I'd known about Perfect Strike while writing last chapter, I would have had fun with that - seriously, that form is real badass. Given that our nuclear machines match the druggies three for three, Azreal decides that his pet projects might need some backup...while le Creuset muses on how to fulfill his own plans with this unexpected variable in play.

Read and Review please!