Chapter 3: Defending Heliopolis

The Alliance vessel slowly made its way through the smoke, the crew breathing a sigh of relief for getting out of the hangar safely.

"We're now within the colony's interior," Arnold announced.

"Morgenroete has been destroyed!" Jackie Tonomura said. "The Strike has been activated. No, it's in combat!"

Down below, Rau overcame his initial shock and pulled the controls back, pulling away from the Strike. He hit his thrusters and shot up towards the ship.

Natarle's eyes widened as she saw the CGUE coming right at them. "Evade! Starboard!"

Arnold groaned as he turned the controls to the left. The ship was massive, and making it turn that quickly was not easy, as the controls were meant to be handled with careful precision. The Archangel turned a full ninety degrees clockwise, the CIWS rounds striking the side of the ship rather than the bridge.

The CGUE flew past the ship, then quickly doubled back, ejecting the empty clip in its rifle before slapping a new one in. Inside, Rau looked at the screen. Impressive, he thought. A maneuver like that is no easy feat to accomplish in so short a time. Their crew is very good.

Rather than go back for another run, though, he instead headed right for the Strike. "Phase shift? Then how about this?"

Alex and Cagalli threw themselves on the ground as Rau opened fire. Miguel shut his eyes, as he couldn't move due to his restraints. He hoped this wasn't the end for him.

"Get down!" Murrue yelled to the others, who likewise dove and covered their heads as the sound of gunfire assaulted their eardrums.

Kira moved the Strike in front of them and swung the blade again, the CGUE narrowly avoiding the edge of the weapon. It fired as it passed, the rounds bouncing off the Strike's armor.

Rau grimaced. "So, not even enhanced APSV rounds work?"

As the Archangel rotated back around, Natarle was already issuing orders. "Prepare missile tubes seven to ten for firing! Target the enemy mobile suit!"

Several hatches opened on the rear of the Archangel, revealing missiles.

"Laser designator! Listen!" Natarle said, turning to look at Romero. "Under no circumstances are you to hit the shaft or the ground."

Romero frowned. You say that, but it's not like that's something I can fully control, he thought.


The missiles launched, targeting the CGUE. Rau groaned as he pulled his machine back, firing at the missiles.

Kira moved the Strike forward and hit the thrusters. The Strike leapt into the air, then climbed as high as it could, firing its own CIWS at the missiles. He watched as the last missile exploded, and cursed. The other three were still heading for the ZAFT mobile suit.

Rau fired again, moving his machine around the Strike. As the remaining two missiles came around, Kira attempted the unthinkable. He worked the controls, and the Strike brought the sword up. Just as the missile was about to hit him, he quickly turned the Strike sideways and brought the sword down, managing to cleave one of the two missiles in half. He grunted as the shock of the explosion rocked his machine, but he saw no damage on the readouts.

"You've got to be kidding!" He yelled, glaring at the Archangel.

"Who the hell is running that ship?!" Alex yelled, holding an arm out. "Missiles in a colony?!"

"Stupid Naturals!" Miguel yelled.

"Oh, shut it, Aiman!" Alex barked, pointing at him. "This wouldn't be happening at all if you hadn't seen fit to invade in the first place!"

Rau pushed the sticks forward, his CGUE once again coming for the Strike. The Strike cut its thrusters and dropped to the ground, slowing down just before landing. As soon as it did, it swung the sword behind it, catching the CGUE's intended blow. Rau grunted from the force of the impact, but held firm. The Strike turned its torso, the head now looking at him as the Alliance prototype slowly twisted around to fully face its opponent.

Alex watched as the Strike slowly inched forward, pushing the CGUE back. He was even more impressed when the Strike suddenly threw itself forward, knocking the ZAFT machine off balance. As the CGUE turned back and swung its sword, the Strike just stood there, letting the sword hit the machine right in the head. The hit once again jarred machine, and Rau was stunned that the pilot would just stand there. He gripped the controls tightly, trying to keep his machine balanced. The Strike then swung with its own sword, neatly cutting off the right arm.

"Such skill," Rau muttered, then turned back. He hit his thrusters and flew back towards the tunnel he and Mu had come through. He passed the damaged Mobius Zero, glancing at it. Another time, Mu.

Mu la Flaga breathed a sigh of relief as he saw the Strike lower its weapon. "Well, I guess I'll be seeing you later, Creuset."

His sensor beeped then, and he took a look. Something was coming out of the tunnel. "Creuset? No, it can't be," he muttered.

Kira, likewise, heard the warning signal and checked his screens. He activated the camera controls and zoomed in on the tunnel. A small shuttle carefully made its way out and headed for them.

On the Archangel, Natarle froze as she and the crew noticed the shuttle. "CIC! Identify!"

"Yes, ma'am!" Dalida Chandra said, pulling up the information on the shuttle. "Alliance vessel, ma'am. A transport, from the looks of it."

"Land the ship," Natarle ordered. "Adjust speed to match ground rotation. And hail the incoming shuttle. And watch the gravity."

Outside the colony, the Vesalius and Gamow sat silently, waiting for orders. Inside, Athrun silently sat in the stolen GAT-X303 Aegis, configuring the mobile suit's operating system.

"Interphase, online. Data pass, active. Computer virus injection complete. Team two, remain cautious of power pack polarization."

He drowned out the sounds from outside, his mind going back to the colony. Where he'd seen Kira, and Alex.


His head snapped up, surprised. "What?"

"We're done with the external check and recharging," the ZAFT tech told him. "What about you?"

"I'm finished here, as well," Athrun said, pulling the keyboard back to its lock position. "But how did they manage with this OS?"

The techs shrugged.

He was just getting out of his seat when the alert sounded. Athrun sat back in his seat and prepared to strap himself in.

"Commander le Creuset had returned. His mobile suit has suffered a direct hit. Firefighting and relief squads to B deck."

Athrun was shocked. He got up and walked out of the cockpit, looking at the launch door. The CGUE flew in backwards, activating its reverse thrusters before being caught by the crash net.

"The commander's unit lost an arm!" One of the techs said, shocked.

Impossible, Athrun thought. But if it was against him…

On Heliopolis, the Archangel had finally landed. The Mobius Zero followed suit, carefully flying into the hangar. Mu looked at the Strike, which was kneeling, and lowering its arms to let several civilians on the ground safely.

Behind him, the shuttle landed softly and almost immediately lowered its opened its bay doors.

As Miriallia, Sai, Kuzzey, and Tolle jumped off the Strike's hands, several Alliance officers ran up to them. Cagalli and Alex went last, pulling Miguel with them.

"Lieutenant Ramius!"

Murrue turned to see Natarle. "Ensign Badgiruel."

Natarle saluted. "I'm glad you're safe."

Murrue returned the salute, smiling. "Likewise. I'm pleased to see that you were able to protect the Archangel. You saved us."

The Strike's hatch opened then, and Kira stepped out. The crew stared in shock as he casually grabbed the line and lowered himself to the ground.

"What the hell?" Chief Murdoch muttered. "He's only a kid. Don't tell me he was the one piloting it."

"Lieutenant, what's going on?" Natarle asked.

Murrue looked uncomfortable, and was about to respond, when another voice chimed in.

"Wow, what a surprise."

A man wearing a blue and purple flight suit walked up. He had unruly blonde hair, and blue eyes. He smiled as he set his helmet down. "I'm Lieutenant Mu la Flaga, of the Seventh Orbital Fleet. Nice to meet you," he said, saluting.

The others returned the salute, Murrue stepping forward.

"I'm Lieutenant Murrue Ramius of Sector Two, Fifth Special Division," Murrue introduced herself.

"Ensign Natarle Badgiruel, of the same division," Natarle said.

"I'd like authorization to board this ship," Mu said, lowering his arm. "Who's in charge here?"

Natarle's expression was one of sadness. "The captain and all top officers of this ship have perished in battle. Therefore, I believe Lieutenant Ramius has seniority."

Murrue was shocked to hear this.

"Only a dozen or so of us were saved, most of which were noncommissioned officers," Natarle explained. "Thankfully, I was in the shaft, so I was able to escape danger."

They barely noticed the group of soldiers headed their way as they kept talking.

"Well, this is a disaster," Mu said, rubbing his forehead in frustration. "Either way, do I have permission to board the ship, Lieutenant Ramius? The ship I came in on was destroyed."

"Of course," Murrue said, nodding. "Permission granted."

"Excuse us, captain, lieutenants."

They turned and stared at the new arrivals. There were five of them, all wearing some kind of combat suit. From first glance, it appeared to be a combination of armor, as well as actual cloth material. In reality, it was next generation assault gear, designed to maximize mobility as well as defense for the wearer. The shoulder pads were thin, and seemed so thin that one could almost swear they weren't there at all. The same went for all the joints. They all had several holsters, but only a few had weapons in them. The helmets were round, and the visors were opaque. The breastplate of the armor only had six letters on it, on the top left corner. STORII.

"So, you guys made it," Mu said, smiling.

Lieutenant Ramius looked at him in surprise. "I'm sorry?"

Mu motioned towards them. "These guys were on the same ship I was. Didn't know they were coming here, though." Then he stopped and thought back for a moment. "You were the reinforcements the captain was talking about?"

The trooper in front nodded. "Yes. We were supposed to be shipped out to Alaska, but that plan was derailed by the attack."

"And who are you?" Natarle asked. "I've never seen Alliance soldiers like yourselves before."

"I'm not surprised," the trooper responded. "We're a pretty well guarded secret."

The five suddenly saluted, surprising everyone.

"We're STORII. Special Tactics Operations of Reconnaissance, Intelligence, and Infiltration," he explained. "You can call me Smith," he said, lowering his arm. He gestured behind him. "These are Johnson, Anderson, Walker, and Taylor."

"No first names?" Mu asked with a smile.

"Classified," Smith said. "Sorry."

"I'm surprised Alliance HQ didn't tell us about this," Natarle said.

"Well, not everyone in the Alliance knows about this ship yet," Smith said. "A prototype vessel. They were supposed to unveil it at Alaska. Yet here we are."

"You seem to be well informed about us," Murrue said.

"That's the 'intelligence' part of our unit," Smith replied, shrugging. "And if Rau le Creuset found out about this, it wasn't as well kept a secret as it should have been."

"You know Creuset?" Mu asked.

Smith nodded. "I know of him, yes. But that's a conversation for another time. I believe you have some visitors," he said, turning to look at Kira and his friends.

"Who are they?" Mu asked.

"Civilians," Murrue explained. "For some reason, several of them were in the factory district when we were attacked."

Mu and Natarle looked at the students, noticing that two of them were looking down at the ground.

"The one in front got into the G-weapon. His name is Kira Yamato," Murrue said. "Thanks to him, we were able to fight off a GINN and capture the enemy pilot."

Natarle looked at her in surprise. "That boy fought off a GINN?"

"I came here as an escort for the pilots who were supposed to use these units," Mu said. "Where are they?"

"We were bombed when they were in the control booth being welcomed by the captain. So, they too…" Natarle left the sentence unfinished.

"I see," Mu said. He shook his head and walked over to Kira. Alex stood up, wincing. Mu looked over at him, noticing the blonde-haired girl next to him. He turned back to Kira. "You're a coordinator, aren't you? Along with Alex there."

Kira was shocked, and Alex grit his teeth. The soldiers behind Mu seemed tense, suddenly. Smith and his squad took a step to the side, watching the event impassively. Or so they seemed.

"Yes," Kira said.

The Alliance soldiers immediately leveled their rifles at him. Tolle and Sai stood in front of the two, preventing the soldiers from firing.

"We still don't know Miguel's status," Rau said, his right hand on his chin. "The footage from my CGUE might be enough for the council, but I can't very well go back without confirming Miguel's fate."

He looked at the three pilots around him. "You're already aware of the problem with the original OS. Given the fact, I have no idea why that last unit was able to move that well. But what is clear is that we cannot leave it in the hands of the Alliance," Rau explained. "If we cannot capture it, we will destroy it here and now, along with the ship. Don not underestimate either one." He saluted, and the pilots responded.

"Olor! Matthew! Authorization has been granted to use D-equipment! This time, be sure to end it!" Ades said.

"Yes, sir!"

The two pilots kicked off and made their way to the door through zero gravity.

"Captain Ades, please allow me to go, as well!" Athrun said.

"You have no machine, Athrun," Rau said gently. "Besides, you have already completed the important mission of capturing one of the units."

"Let it go, Athrun," Ades said. "Olor and Matthew have a stronger case, given the humiliation they suffered."

Athrun sighed, then nodded. He gave a quick salute, then left the room.

Ades looked at Rau. "I'm surprised he wants to go out there again."

Rau nodded.

"Captain! Priority message from the Zacynthus!"

"What?" Ades asked.

Rau frowned. This could turn ugly for him very quickly.

"On screen," he said, pulling himself into a seat.

"Been a while, le Creuset."

Rau smiled. "That it has, Captain Daurio."

James Daurio did not return the expression, glaring at him instead. James was in his mid-twenties, with slightly tanned skin and short brown hair, so short that one might mistake him from a distance for being bald. His grey eyes bore into Creuset's, trying to read the man.

"Not long enough. I hear you invaded a neutral colony."

Rau was not an easy man to surprise, but today was a day where fate was constantly thwarting him at every turn.

"Nonsense," Rau replied. "I received intel that the Alliance was building prototype mobile suits here, violating the neutrality of the colony. Concerned for the safety of the coordinators on the colony, I merely-"

"You invaded a neutral colony, owned by a neutral nation, filled with Naturals and Coordinators, to find out if this intel was accurate," James said.

Rau nodded. "That is correct."

"Then you authorized an attack on the Morgenroete facility, killing countless soldiers, stole the prototypes, and are now headed back to the PLANTs. Correct?"

Rau shook his head. "We failed to capture one of the prototypes. We have already attempted to destroy it. I took it upon myself to verify its capabilities by engaging with my CGUE."

James nodded. "So, you condone the attack?"

Rau grit his teeth. He was being backed into a corner. If Daurio got back to the council with this news, men like Clyne would have a field day.

"You needn't worry," Rau replied, speaking calmly. "We will be on our way shortly, with the final prototype, and I will be able to clear this up with the council."

"Oh, I don't think so," James said, smirking. He pressed his fingers together. "I'm on my way to Heliopolis as we speak. Originally it was just to safeguard the colony in case the Alliance tried to retaliate for Kaohsiung. Now the reason's changed. I thought it best to give the Council several accounts of the events that have transpired. Not that I don't trust you."

Rau smiled. "Of course. We await your assistance with this matter."

"I'm sure."

The connection was cut and Ades looked at Rau. "Commander…"

Rau stood up. "We have to finish up here quickly."

"What are you doing? He may be a coordinator, but Kira is not an enemy!" Tolle yelled at the soldiers.

"How'd you know it was me?" Alex asked, looking at Mu.

Mu smiled. "You're hard to forget. The Blue Blaze of ZAFT. Heard about you."

"The Hawk of Endymion took an interest in me," Alex said. "I'm flattered. You're a hell of a pilot, yourself. Not many people can use a Mobius Zero like you."

Kira was surprised that Alex and Mu were talking to each other as if they were old friends.

Mu's attention was diverted as he heard several guns being cocked. He looked to that the STORII squad were now pointing their weapons at the Alliance troops.

"What are you doing?!" Natarle barked at them.

"Protecting a group of civilians from hostile forces," Smith replied. He had a 1911 Colt .45 pointed at the lead soldier. Behind him, his team also had their weapons drawn. The weapons included were a Mossberg 590A1 twelve gauge, two HK416s, and a GUU-5/P.

"They're coordinators!" One of the Alliance soldiers yelled.

"They're civilians from a technical school," another STORII agent replied. "Kira Yamato is not a member of ZAFT. We checked."

Murrue was surprised yet again. They had intel pulled on the situation as it unraveled. "Lower your rifles!" She ordered the men.

The soldiers did as ordered, though they were visibly displeased. Smith turned his head towards his men, and gave a slight nod. They all holstered their weapons.

"Lieutenant Ramius, explain yourself," Natarle said, stepping forward.

"It's not that surprising," Murrue answered. "Heliopolis belongs to a neutral entity, after all. It's natural that some coordinators would decide to come here to avoid being involved in the war. Isn't that right, Kira?" She asked, looking at him.

"No, you're right," Kira said. "Especially since I'm a first-generation coordinator."

"First generation?" One of the crew members asked quietly.

"Meaning that your parents are Naturals," Mu said. He rubbed the back of his neck then, sighing. "Sorry for causing such a stir. I was just curious, nothing more."

Alex nodded, clutching his side. "No harm done, I guess."

Mu turned to look at the Strike. "On my way here, I saw a number of simulations by the guys who were supposed to fly these things, but they couldn't do much other than getting them to move." He started to make his way out of the hangar.

"Where are you going, lieutenant?" Natarle asked.

"I'm gonna rest up for a bit. The team waiting for us is le Creuset's. He's pretty persistent. If you ask me, we can't afford to spend too much time here," he explained, walking away.

Alex lowered his head in thought. He's right. The Alliance has to leave, if Heliopolis survives the next attack. If they don't, things will get ugly. And we're nowhere near ready to reveal ourselves. Not yet.

On the Gamow, ZAFT's techs and engineers struggled to arm their mobile suits in time.

"Number six container! Mount the D-equipment on the GINN!"

"Operation commencing at 0100. Matthew, proceed to standby position."

Several GINNs were already moving to their designated locations.

Up above on the observation deck, Dearka Elsman, Yzak Joule, and Nicol Amalfi patiently waited for orders.

"D-equipment, huh?" Dearka muttered. "Is the commander preparing to capture a fortress?"

"But what'll happen to Heliopolis?" Nicol asked, adjusting the collar of his flight suit.

"Does it matter?" Yzak asked, his eyes closed and his arms crossed. "It serves them right, calling themselves a neutral state."

In the crew quarters of the Archangel, Kira's friends were huddled together, glancing at Kira occasionally as they talked.

"I'm surprised he can sleep in this situation," Kuzzey said.

"He's been through a lot," Miriallia explained, placing a hand on Kuzzey's shoulder. "It was pretty tough on him."

"I guess you're right," Kuzzey conceded.

"What are you trying to say, Kuzzey?" Sai asked, looking right at him.

"Nothing," Kuzzey answered, looking up. "But that's all we can say for him. 'It was tough for him'."

They didn't notice Alex quietly entering the room.

"Kira said he rewrote the OS on that machine, right?" Kuzzey asked. "When did he do that?"

"What do you mean, when?" Sai asked.

"I can't imagine Kira knowing about that machine before the battle," Kuzzey explained. "So when did he rewrite the program?"

"In the heat of battle, guys," Alex said softly, startling them.

"A-Alex," Miriallia stammered.

"Yeah," Sai said quietly. "A little warning next time."

Alex nodded, crossing his arms over his chest. He looked at Kira, a small smile on his face.

"I figured Kira was a coordinator," Kuzzey said. "To think genetically modified coordinators can do these things, and to them, it's nothing more than 'tough'."

"Hey," Alex said, looking at them. "So we're coordinators. We're not superhuman. And, honestly, any other coordinator in his position would have had trouble pulling it off."

"He's that special?" Sai asked, surprised.

"No, Sai," Alex said, rubbing his eyes. "Kira was in a combat situation. He's not a soldier. The adrenaline kicked in, and helped Kira's brain advance a bit farther than he thought he could go."

Sai nodded, and the others looked down.

"I guarantee you, if we asked him to replicate the process, do the same thing again, he probably wouldn't be able to do it. Nowhere near as quickly," Alex said, shaking his head. "Might even take him a few days."

"But all the guys in ZAFT are like that," Kuzzey said. "Aren't they?"

"No," Alex answered. "They're not."

"I'm told the colony interior is almost completely evacuated," Murrue said, sighing. "But with that last incident, they're on alert level nine."

"Which means the shelters have been completely locked," Mu said, his arms crossed over his chest.

Smith stood off to the side, silent. He'd been the only one from his team to come up to the bridge.

"How are your men on supplies?" Natarle asked him. "We don't have much to spare. We were only supposed to launch the ship out of here. And with the base destroyed, we have no way of getting more."

Smith shook his head. "We're fine. We've got our own batch of supplies on the shuttle. Since my team is small, we don't require much."

"Lucky you," Mu said, smiling halfheartedly.

Smith held up a hand. "Honestly, I think you might need those supplies more than we do. So, if it comes down to it, we will relinquish it. On an as needed basis."

Murrue nodded. "Thank you. What kind of supplies do you have?"

Smith shrugged. "Not a lot. A few extra weapons, some medical supplies, ration bars. You're not the only ones who were supposed use this colony as a pit stop."

Murrue frowned. "I'm not entirely comfortable calling Heliopolis a pit stop," she said, looking down. "Kira and Alex may have been right when they said it's our fault the colony got attacked."

"They 'might' have been right?" Smith asked, putting extra emphasis on the second word. "I know I'm just a grunt, but I really wasn't thrilled when I heard this was our destination. Neutral ground always sounds good for a clandestine operation. Until everything goes wrong."

"We had no other choice," Natarle said, looking at him. She still had a hard time reading him, since he refused to take off the helmet.

"Don't play that game with me, lieutenant," Smith said, shifting his weight slightly and raising his head. "Your superiors could have picked any place on Earth, except Orb. Instead they chose a colony that was built and owned by the Orb Union. A calculated play."

"Calculated?" Mu asked.

Smith looked at him. "It's no secret that the Alliance wants Orb to join them. Their money, and technological level, not to mention Attha's influence, would really help them get ahead in this war. ZAFT's had the edge so far in many aspects. We finally caught up to their mobile suit capabilities, even if the result included a shoddily put together OS. By building here, the Alliance would have had the perfect ploy with which to force Orb to join the Alliance."

"We defend their colony, and as a form of thanks, Orb joins," Murrue said silently.

Natarle frowned. "Conjecture, captain. Nothing more."

"But not out of the realms of possibility," Mu said. "Oh, we're forgetting something as we discuss all this."

"What?" Murrue asked.

"The Heliopolis students, I assume," Smith said.

Mu nodded as Murrue put a hand on her forehead. "We can't just put them in a shelter now. They're all full."

"The lieutenant detained them for seeing military secrets," Natarle said. "We can't just let them go."

Murrue thought back to Alex's words when she had the students at gunpoint.

"We may not have a choice," she said, closing her eyes and sighing.


"She's right," Smith said, cutting Natarle off. "They're citizens of Heliopolis. They didn't choose this. As Aleksander said, once the alert goes off, someone's gonna ask questions. The Alliance is already going to have an uphill battle for support once it becomes public they were building in secret on Heliopolis. If they learn we detained a group of students under the age of eighteen to prevent a leak, the Alliance will lose a lot of support. Orb may even use that as a sign that the Alliance's methods are hostile."

"ZAFT attacked us," Natarle said. "They launched a strike against this colony."

"Only after learning that you were building mobile suits here," Smith answered instantly. "And give them credit for trying to keep the fighting restricted to the base."

"Creuset won't leave us alone, though," Mu said. "Leave or stay, he'll try to finish us off." He looked up in thought for a moment. "Maybe we should ask Alex?"

Natarle and Murrue looked at him, surprised.

"Absolutely not!" Natarle yelled. "He's a coordinator, and a former member of ZAFT! For all we know, he could very well be a spy!"

"I love how your first statement is that he's a coordinator," Smith said, turning his head towards her. "Not racist at all."

Natarle had the decency to look embarrassed, at least.

"He's not. As I mentioned once before, we looked into it," Smith said.

"So, he really has been hiding out here all this time?" Mu asked.

"Hiding implies he's trying to avoid certain entities," Smith said. "We believe he left ZAFT after their attacks became more brazen. He didn't change his name or appearance. Instead, he came to a neutral colony. Probably thought no one would bother looking for him here. Asking him for advice wouldn't be a bad idea, Mu. And it looks like he's friends with the boy who upgraded the X-105."

"You're going to use it in battle again?" Natarle asked.

"We can't escape without it," Murrue answered.

"It would be better for the lieutenant to pilot it," Natarle said, looking at Mu.

"Hey, don't even think about it," Mu said, holding his hands up. "I can't pilot that thing. Have you seen the OS since that kid rewrote it? It's not possible for a normal human being to pilot it now."

"Then make him change it back!" Natarle yelled, furious.

"The GAT series was barely able to crawl at a snail's pace on its original programming specs," Smith explained. "And you want to put our remaining prototype back on that level?"

"We can't have a civilian, especially a coordinator, using top secret machinery!" Natarle barked at him.

Smith's hand rested on his holster then. "Which part angers you more? Civilian or coordinator?"

Natarle stayed silent.

"Should we just head out and become an easy target for them?" Mu asked her.

"You need a pilot. The boy can do it," Smith said. "He doesn't want to, though. Forcing him sends the wrong message. I have an idea."

He took his hand off the holster and activated his internal comm. "Anderson, could you grab Kolodziej and the Strike pilot and bring them here?"

On the Gamow, the GINNs had finally launched. As the hangar bay door was about to close, the X303 Aegis made its way to the catapult.

"Hey, no one told me this one was launching, too!" One of the technicians yelled.

On the bridge, Ades groaned as he heard the news. "Call him back immediately."

"Let him go," Rau said.

Ades looked at him in shock.

"We've already completed the data extraction," Rau said. "This may be interesting. A battle between the Alliance's own machines." He smiled and looked out the viewport, clasping his hands behind his back.

"I'm not doing it!" Kira vehemently said. "I piloted it before, but that was to protect my friends! Don't drag us into this war!"

Murrue looked apologetic, which was a surprise to Alex.

"There may be a war out there," Kira said. "But we don't agree with it! That's why we chose to come here, to live on a neutral colony!"

"Nobody likes war, kid," Smith said, walking up to him. "And if they do, there's something seriously wrong with them."

"Why don't you guys just take the prototype back and use it yourselves?" Alex asked. Of course he knew the answer.

"Very funny," Smith said as Murrue sighed again. "You and Alex are the only ones that can use it since you modified the OS. And you're the more logical choice since you piloted it already."

"He has a point, Kira," Alex said. "Even I was surprised at how well you handled your first time in a mobile suit."

"You want me to do this, Alex?" Kira asked, surprised. "You hate this as much as I do."

Alex nodded. "But think about this way. They'll owe you." He looked at Murrue, his eyes boring into her. "They'll really owe you. Forever."

Smith sighed. "Let me guess. Now you give us the terms of this agreement."

"Heliopolis doesn't join the Alliance," Alex said, crossing his arms. "Now or ever. And to make sure you don't abuse Kira's goodwill, all requests go through me. Put me on CIC. And Kira does not become a soldier of the Alliance by doing this."

"Done," Smith said, and Murrue looked at him, surprise on her face.

Alarms suddenly went off.

"What is it?" Murrue asked.

Mu checked the scanners. "We've got mobile suits incoming!" He announced. "You're gonna have to take command!"

"I am?" Murrue asked, surprised.

"I may have seniority, but I don't know the first thing about this ship," Mu explained.

Murrue sat down in the captain's chair. "Prepare the Archangel for takeoff. All hands, level one battle stations!" She looked at Mu. "Is your mobile armor ready?"

Mu shook his head. "It's no good."

"Then take the CIC," she told him.

"I'll take CIC," Alex said suddenly.

"You?" Natarle said. "Why?'

He pointed at Kira. "He's gonna need somebody to watch his back. I can help him with that. Yelling at him that he's not doing his job right is not gonna aid him in the slightest."

"Very well," Murrue said.


"Shut up!" Alex yelled at Natarle, shocking her. "You want his help or not? He's a coordinator, he's not a soldier, and he's also YOUR ONLY OPTION!" He suddenly roared. "We have Aiman's GINN, but I haven't flown one of those in a long time, and I'm not about to try it here on the colony. "

Murrue looked at Kira. "Get to the hangar, Kira. Prepare for launch."

Kira nodded. "Yes, ma'am." He looked at Alex. "Thanks."

"I got your back, bracie," Alex said with a nod. When Kira walked out of the room, Alex turned around and cracked his knuckles. "One more thing I've gotta do, captain."

"What's that?"

"Talk to our prisoner."

Miguel felt the ship lurch and he sat up, looking around. He didn't know what was happening, but was sure it wasn't good.


He looked over to the door, and he saw Alex and Miriallia. She was holding a tray of food.

"My last meal?" Miguel asked, sounding smug.

"Hopefully not," Alex said, motioning for Milly to hand the tray to Miguel. "ZAFT's moving in. We're going to hold them off."

"Good luck," Miguel said. "The commander's gonna eat you guys alive."

Miriallia passed the tray through the cell bar, and Miguel took it. "If we die, you die," she told him. Miguel was surprised by her statement. She stared at him, showing no signs of emotion. Without another word, she turned around and walked out of the room.

Alex glanced behind him, then turned back. "She has a point."

"What do you want me to do?" Miguel asked. "Switch sides, say I'll help a bunch of Naturals? Don't make me laugh."

Alex leaned forward as Miguel grabbed the small bun and bit into it. "Sooner or later, the balance is going to shift, Miguel. Naturals aren't in the right, but neither are we. Not in this matter. Attacking this place just take out this ship-even you have to know it's wrong."

"Maybe I do," Miguel said, shrugging. "But they built these things here."

"They'll answer for it," Alex said. "I promise. But the citizens shouldn't be the one who pay for it."

Miguel thought about that and nodded. "Hey, what's up with that Kira guy?" He asked, looking at Alex. "He's with the Alliance?"

"No," Alex explained. "He was living here peacefully, same as me. Then you guys attacked. He's not happy about piloting the unit for them, either."

"Then why is he?" Miguel asked. "They forced him to, right?" He took a sip of the water and set it down.

"They tried, but we've got a couple guys here who aren't fans of those tactics," Alex told him. He felt the ship shake slightly. "Gonna have to wrap this up soon," he muttered.

"What guys?"

"Naturals," Alex replied, surprising Miguel. "Soldiers who don't like using cheap scare tactics to make people do as they say."

Miguel was silent.

"I have plans for Heliopolis, Miguel," Alex said. "Kira doesn't know the full extent, but he knows a bit about what I'm planning. Having the help of the Magic Bullet of Dusk-that might really pay off."

"Trying to bribe me?" Miguel asked.

"Giving you a possible choice," Alex clarified. "Think it over. And get to know these people before judging them. Most of the crew is comprised of technical students from Heliopolis. They had nowhere to go after your attack. The girl who brought you the food is one."

Miguel looked down, then. "This was supposed to be easy."

"War is never easy," Alex said. "Not on the soldiers, not on their families. The only ones who have it easy are the schmucks in command, sitting back at home base, reducing their soldiers down to blips on the radar." He started heading out. "Enjoy your meal, Miguel. Hopefully soon, we'll have a conversation as friends, and not captive and captor."

"Our top priority is to escape Heliopolis," Murrue said. "Be careful not to damage the colony during battle."

"That won't be easy," Jackie muttered.

The door hissed as it slid open, and Alex ran in, taking a seat at the CIC. "What'd I miss?"

"Not much," Dalida Chandra replied. "Thanks for helping."

Alex shrugged, putting the headset on. "What was I gonna do? Sit back and watch? Strike, do read me?"


"Good," Alex said, nodding. "Kira, we're equipping the Aile Striker pack on your machine. It's got a beam rifle, but you can keep that holstered if you prefer. Use the beam sabers and shield."

"Single heat source approaching!" Chandra announced. "Thermal pattern recognition on. It's a GINN."

Mu pulled up the visual scanner and was stunned at what he saw. "That GINN's got heavy bombing equipment! They're gonna use that here?!"

"Say hello to Rau's tactics," Alex said. "Two more signatures, coming from the Tannenbaum district. Looks like they used the same entrance as before, then took a roundabout route once inside. Interesting."

"How so?" Natarle asked.

"Rau's usually more forward," Alex explained. "If he's being careful, then he's probably been warned that he's on thin ice. That's good for us."

"Launch the Strike!" Natarle said.

"Kira, you're go for launch," Alex broadcast to him.

On screen, he saw the Earth forces prototype leave the hangar. He looked up as a warning signal came up. "Got another contact." His eyes widened as he saw the IFF. "It's the Aegis!"

They're sending it out into combat?" Murrue asked, surprised.

"It's an enemy now!" Mu barked. "You wanna get sunk by it?"

"Prepare Korinthos missiles! Direct laser designator at the GINN!" Natarle said.

"Projectile weapons are useless against phase shift!" Murrue informed her. "Link the laser to the main cannons! Fire at will!"

Alex looked as the cannons fired, the beams missing the targets. At least they turned down the beam intensity. It'll dissipate before reaching the end of the colony. He turned on the comm for the crew quarters. "Guys, you can see what's happening on the monitor on the far side of the room."

In the air, the Strike threw itself into a barrel roll as a GINN opened fire. The beam went past it, hitting a structural column and causing it to crash on the ground. Thankfully it hit an unoccupied are of the colony, though Kira was still devastated to see part of his home damaged.

"Kira! They're trying to surround you!"

Kira snapped back to the present and dodged another blast.

"Use the shield!"

He heard Alex's words, and did just that. The Strike took the hits directly, then moved in, drawing its beam saber. Kira pushed the stick forward, thumbing the trigger. The Strike swung, but the GINN simply turned away before the saber could hit.

"Damn it!" Kira cursed, gritting his teeth.

"Kira, you're okay."

Alex's voice was oddly calming to Kira. "What should I do?"

"Use the shield."

"I'm doing that!" Kira said, glancing at the radar.

"No, Kira! Use the shield. Just the shield. Get in close, use it as a battering ram! Might be tough, but it'll throw them off and disorient them!"

Above the battle, Athrun's stolen machine closed in on the Strike. He turned his head and watched as the other GINNs attacked the legged ship, firing missiles into its side.


"No time!"

"Don't give me that!" Mu snapped. "Give me manual targeting control!"

"Starboard forty degrees! Full speed!" Murrue ordered.

The missiles impacted on the ground below the Archangel.

The door opened and Cagalli burst it. "What are you people doing?!" She demanded.

"Of all the-"

Kira blocked another attack and the Strike performed another thrust, once again missing the GINN. He looked at his screen when he got an alert. The Aegis was right behind him. Kira cut his thrusters and let the Aegis fly right past him.

A GINN took the moment of hesitation as the moment to attack and it fired. The beam struck the Strike on the shoulder, damaging it.

Kira yelled as the Strike was thrown into a spin, hurtling towards the ground.

"Kira! Kira!"

Kira heard Alex, but didn't answer. He worked the controls frantically and managed to pull up in time, avoiding several homes.

"I'm hit!"

"Calm down! Your machine-"

"You calm down!" Kira yelled into the comm. "I'm surrounded!"

"The Strike's pretty durable! Circle around and show these guys our resolve! You don't have to kill them! Just take away their ability to attack."

Kira flew the Strike as low as he could, so low he came dangerously close to ripping off the roofs of the houses he passed.

"Then what?" He asked. The comm was quiet. Alex?"

Alex ripped off the headset as he heard Cagalli's voice.

"Are you insane?!" Cagalli yelled at them. "Fighting inside a colony?"

"Hey, sweetheart!" Alex yelled. "Busy! Go be a spoiled brat elsewhere!"

"Miss Attha, this is a battle!" Murrue said, shocked that she was here on the bridge.

"Captain, we have to destroy the GINNs! Order the Strike pilot to attack them!" Natarle said, looking at Murrue.

"He blows those GINNs up, the explosions from the reactors could cause more damage to the colony!" Alex replied, glancing back at her. He hit the map and looked around. "I have a solution!"

"What is it?" Murrue asked.

Alex didn't answer her. Instead, he simply contacted Kira again. "Kira, the lake. Incapacitate the GINNs one by one, drop them in the lake as you do."

"What's to keep those pilots from escaping?" Cagalli asked, glaring at him.

"Way ahead of you," Alex said, then glanced at Mu. "Call Smith. Tell him I need his guys on the ground. And tell him to bring some umbrellas."

The shuttle drop was fast, and incredibly uncomfortable, to say the least. When the shuttle landed and they all got off, Anderson dropped to his knees and took several deep breaths. Unprofessional, maybe, but it was the first time in a long time they'd performed a drop that quickly.

Smith placed a hand on his shoulder, and Anderson looked up at him. His chest was heaving and his arms were shaking, but he was okay.

"Up you get, soldier," Smith said, pulling him up. He looked at the others. "Johnson, Walker, Taylor, spread out. Find the best vantage points and keep your eyes peeled at this end here," he motioned behind him. "Kolodziej said he's gonna get the Strike's pilot to drop the GINNs off here, one at a time, busted up enough so that the pilots can't fly them. We take the pilots alive, if we can."

The men nodded. Smith pulled Anderson up and rocked him back and forth. "Shake it off, Anderson. We don't have much time."

Anderson nodded and craned his neck, trying to get himself ready. He looked around, and saw the Strike in the far distance, trying to fend off several GINNs.

"We have no time," Smith clarified, pointing at the battle. "Spread out now!" He activated his comm unit. "We're ready. Tell that kid to sink them."

"Kira! Smith and his team is ready! Get those GINNs now. The Archangel's reaching her limits, here!"

Kira nodded and pulled back. The GINNs followed, firing. Kira flew backwards, keeping the shield up. He moved the shield as they fired, using it to block the incoming fire. He didn't want a stray blast to hit the surrounding area, and he figured the mobile suit could take it.

One of the GINNs rushed forward, and Kira responded instantly. As it came at him, Kira wrenched the controls, throwing the shield at the ZAFT machine before pulling a beam saber.

The GINN batted it away, but it's pilot must have been shocked to see the Strike flying directly at him. The first hit struck the GINN right in the head, the saber going straight through it. The Strike moved its arm to the side, slicing the head off before changing the angle of the saber, this time cutting off the arm holding the rocket launcher. The arm fell harmlessly into the lake, the fire control disabled, thankfully. Kira threw the Strike into a twist, and now the machine's leg came up, knocking the other launcher into the air. The Strike swung its saber again, cleaving the launcher and its ordinance in two. The weapon exploded, taking the missiles with it.

The other GINNs were blanketed by smoke. The Aegis pushed through then, coming right at Kira. He barely managed to block the beam strike in time.

"Kira! Kira Yamato!"

"Athrun Zala!" Kira broadcast. "What are you doing here?!"

"Why are you with the Naturals, Kira? You and Alex-"

"You started this, not me!" Kira yelled, furious. The line was silent. "We weren't involved, and then you attacked us!"

"Heliopolis helped build-"

"We had nothing to do with this!" Kira snarled, throwing the Strike at the Aegis.

Athrun was shocked, to say the least. Kira was no coward, but for him to take the offensive, that was something else. Athrun was now trying to avoid the incoming attacks, blocking with his own shield. "Then why help the Earth forces?" He asked. "Why take part?"

"No other choice, bracie."

Athrun was surprised to hear Alex.

"You forced our hand. And we're not with the Earth forces. We're just helping each other survive."

Athrun narrowed his eyes. "By helping them with these mobile suits?"

"We didn't build them. Kira and I decided to use the only prototype you didn't take to protect Heliopolis. What's left of it."

"Why? Why not come back to ZAFT?" Athrun asked.

"So we could do stuff like this? Invade sovereign nations that don't want to be involved because you don't care about the backlash or casualty rate?"

"Leave, Athrun," Kira said. The GINNs came up behind the Strike, and Athrun's eyes widened. Before he could yell a warning, the Strike whirled, throwing its shield at the GINN on the left. It smashed into its head, damaging the visor. Athrun watched as the Strike pulled out both its beam sabers and expertly cut off the arms of both GINNs before beheading them. The machines plummeted to the ground.

Below, Smith and his team dove to the ground as the mobile suits crashed into the lake, sending water right for them. It wasn't enough to carry them away, but they did get completely soaked. Smith looked towards the lake, then nodded to his men. "Move in!"

"Smith, the Aegis is still-"

"I know!" Smith bellowed. "But it's now or never! Move in!"

On the Archangel, Alex waited for Athrun's response. Natarle had heard a bit, and moved to his station. "Mister Yamato, capture that-"

Alex stood up and shoved her away, surprising everyone.

"Assaulting an officer-"

"No way you're taking my cousin in!" Alex yelled, shaking his head. The bridge went silent.

"Cousin?" Murrue asked. "You were serious?"

"I don't joke when it comes to family," Alex informed her. He sat back down and grabbed the headset. "Athrun, we've already got your fellow pilots. If we include you in the list of POWs, the PLANTs supreme council is gonna have a field day. Leave. Tell le Creuset Heliopolis is off limits. And tell him that spinning events to suit his version of the story is not going to save him. And for the love of God, use your head! You're better than this! Talk to your father! Talk to Clyne. This was a bad move, and you know it! You have thirty seconds to leave or the Archangel opens fire and I tell Kira to attack you. Choose wisely."

He switched the comm off and turned to Murrue. "Thirty seconds, captain. I wasn't joking."

"Captain! Order the Strike to attack the Aegis!" Natarle said.

"Don't be stupid!" Mu replied. "Alex's plan works better for us right now."

"We follow Alex's suggestion," Murrue said grimly. "Prepare to fire. Twenty seconds to firing. Get ready!"

In the Strike, Kira took a deep breath and prepared himself. The Strike brought both beam sabers up, prepared for a battle. He sighed as the Aegis turned around and flew back into the open shaft it came through.

"The Aegis is leaving. Help Smith and his buddies. They're grabbing the pilots. You grab the GINNs."

"And take them where?"

"Take them to the base where the prototypes were. The fires have stopped, mostly. I'll tell them to bring the Archangel over. See you soon. Nice work out there."

Kira sighed and leaned back in his seat. He took a deep breath and maneuvered the Strike around. His work wasn't finished yet.

Author's note: Finally done. Sorry it took a while longer than usual. Some things came up, and I was having trouble with this chapter. Finding the right wording can be so brutal. After this, the story changes. Heliopolis still stands, and the Archangel has some more prisoners. How will the civilians of Heliopolis like the turn of events, though? And what will ZAFT do?