Service Announcement/Update: This story has been rewritten and tweaked as of January 2022. Any updated chapters will have a note at the top to let you know that it has been looked over. No major changes to the plot have taken place, but the writing has been cleaned up and updated to match my current writing style. I have also tried to make my character personalities a bit more consistent with later parts of the story and have updated/tweaked battle sequences based on review comments and personal style. None of the Author Notes (A/N) have been changed because none of the reviews have been changed, so there might be some discrepancies. Thanks in advance for your understanding and I appreciate you stopping by to have a read. I hope you enjoy it!

A/N: Hey guys. This is a new story of mine. I haven't gotten as far along it as I would've wanted to, but I'm getting there. This is both the prologue and the first chapter. The prologue wasn't long enough to stand on its own so I just combined the two.

I decided to put it up and get some feedback, so let me know how it is. Constructive criticism is always appreciated. Like all my other stories, it may take a while for me to post up new chapters. I have a lot going on in my life right now and unfortunately writing isn't as high as some of the other things. I'm sorry about that and I'll try to get chapters out as rapidly as I can. Thanks!

Mandatory disclaimers: I do not own anything related to Gundam SEED, Gundam SEED Destiny, or the Gundam franchise.
As we all know, the characters in SEED are all teenagers, but they tend to deal with rather adult concepts. I have not officially aged my characters (I might take the leap someday), but have followed canon in that regard. There might be some adult concepts they have to deal with, so please bear that in mind.
For those readers who are not interested in any pre-SEED material, the SEED timeline starts in chapter 12.

Strata


"You are a tool of war; a weapon. Nothing but a shadow; a shadow of death."

Prologue

I switched divisions today. Well, switched training programs would be more appropriate. I just spent the past three months perfecting my firearms and self-defense skills, but it looks as if I'll never even get to sit behind the controls of a mobile suit.

I just arrived at Januarias 4 to begin my new training. It's an "experimental" program so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when none of the others in my class were chosen. Most of them were sons of councilmen or others in authority. One of the fathers threw quite a fit when he found out that his son was among the first to be chosen. The boy was a perfect candidate, but apparently the "pickers" forgot that he was the son of Patrick Zala.

They were obviously lying.

So, I guess to make things short, I was chosen instead of the others, probably because I'm just a runaway. Obviously, the fact that I'm a girl caused a huge fuss, but it doesn't matter now.

I'm stuck here.

I don't know what's in store for me, but I'm sure I'll find out tomorrow.

Yikes! Room checks. I swear this is just like a prison.

A girl, no older than fourteen, capped her pen and tossed it, along with her journal, under her bed. She slapped a panicked hand against her bedside light to turn it off, fixed the covers, turned her head towards the wall, and shut her eyes. The lock on the door clicked and it slid open without so much as a knock by the ZAFT soldier on the other side. She heard him walk through the doorway and could only imagine him in his pristine green military outfit. It was something she had gotten used to over time, but the fact that they were dressed so officially and the trainees were only given some baggy uniforms only solidified the fact that she was inferior. The solider stayed for only a moment, shifted the weapon strap across his shoulder, and closed the door. Four short beeps and a loud click announced that she was stuck there until morning.

With a sigh she rolled onto her back and stared at the ceiling. There's no one to blame but yourself, so stop pouting. Just take it one day at a time. A frustrated tear trickled down her cheek and melted into her pillow. Just remember that you're becoming stronger. Soon you won't cry like this anymore.


Lunar Eclipse

"Today begins your first day of training." Captain Vindur was a large man with black scraggly hair and a beard that was well-trimmed and groomed. He was average in height, but he was obviously not a man to be messed with based on the confidence in his gait, the muscles most likely hidden under the layer of fat, and the mere fact that he probably earned that captain position for a reason. He stood with his legs a little wider than shoulder-width apart and hands clasped behind his back. It was a cocky position, and—despite his rank—Lexi wasn't sure he was there by choice. What high-ranking officer would be the head of an "experimental" program?

"This won't be anything like you've undergone before. Here is where we teach you all to be weapons of war. For the next two years this facility will be your home, the word 'home' used figuratively of course." A smile caressed his lips, almost too sadistically. He seemed to be enjoying himself. "I'd imagine by now you've all realized the strict schedule that you must hold to everyday. Severe punishments will be issued to anyone who disobeys such regulations. None of you are sons of any councilmen or aristocrats so we don't have to worry about any governmental interference."

Well, that was a pointed statement, Lexi thought, biting the inside of her cheek.

"All of you will be assigned a code name that you will be referred to from here on out. This name will, most likely, go down to Hell with you, so you'd better come to like it. Your original name is of no significance now, so I suggest you just forget it altogether." Another reason Lexi was convinced this man was probably demoted to this position.

His pep talks sucked.

"Lexi Rymyr?"

Lexi stopped admiring the split ends of the boy in front of her and looked up at the soldier. Like the one that probably checked her room last night, this one wore a green uniform. The long brown hair suited his six-foot stature and muscular build, but aside from looks he was obviously a private. What commanding officer in his right mind would ask a soldier who she was? Underlings are commanded with orders, not questions.

"Sir."

"Here are your group assignments, training schedules, and facility password. I suggest you memorize them by midday."

"Yes sir." Lexi saluted and grabbed the folder. The private moved on to the boy next to her, offering a half-assed salute on the way. Lexi finally let loose the eye roll she had been holding in and looked at the top of the folder. "Lunar Eclipse," she whispered, liking how it sounded as it left her tongue. She looked around the room, wondering how many different code names her superiors had to come up with—and how creative they had been—but surprisingly there were only about 30 others like herself. She had been zoning in and out so much during Captain Vindur's speech that she never noticed who was standing around her.

"Alright recruits, this'll be your last ounce of free time for the next two years," Vindur mentioned with a dismissive shake of his hand. "So I suggest you don't waste it. I want you to meet back here at 1200 hours. Dismissed." The others saluted and made their way towards the exit. "Oh, Lunar Eclipse, I need to speak with you."

She groaned to herself and swam her way back through the crowd, offering a few "Excuse me" statements on the way. "You wanted to see me, sir?"

"Yes. I'm sure that by now you figured out that you're the only female among your fellow recruits." She nodded while the captain stroked his beard. "That doesn't mean that you're getting any special treatment though. If anything, you'll be treated harsher than the others." The corner of Lexi's eye twitched, but other than that she didn't flinch. Somehow, that really wasn't as surprising as he had probably meant it to be. "Obviously, you have your own room with lavatory and shower. You will not be allowed in anyone's room past 2100 hours, and no one will be allowed in yours past the same hour. Do I make myself clear?" Keeping to her "bobble head" demeanor, Lexi nodded again. "Well, now that that's all taken care of, you'll be assigned to some advanced courses on top of your basic schedule."

"Sir?" The idea of advanced courses didn't sound too appealing, but she also knew she was really in no position to argue. She bit her tongue before she could say anything to get her in trouble.

"You have been in basic training for the past few months correct?"

"Yes," Lexi said, her voice trailing off as her suspicion grew.

"You have had the opportunity to learn most of the skills some of the others haven't, so I'd like you to take some more advanced, skill-based training. Is that clear?"

"Understood, sir."

"Good." He paused and stroked his beard again, his eyes making a scan of the room before returning to her. "We never wanted you here, Lunar Eclipse, but it seems as if we're stuck with you. Just remember that. Women have no place in this program."

Despite her situation, however, that comment she couldn't let slide. "It seems that we feel the same, sir. In fact, I really don't want to be here, but just to prove to you that women are just as good as men, I'll become the top soldier in this facility."

"I'll hold you to that. You are dismissed." Lexi saluted and left without another word.

"We should keep an eye on that one," the captain mused, turning to leave the room and walk into his office adjacent. A pile of manila folders were stacked on his desk, but only one of particular interest was sitting open across the desk. He looked down at the redhead's face in the photo, his mouth flipping into a frown. "It says here that she was ranked the lowest in her class, but then again her comrades were among those with the highest potential that we've seen in years." He stroked his beard in thought once more, which seemed to have become more of a character trait over the years than the nervous twitch it had been in the past.

"She certainly has some fire in her, sir," said the private next to him, walking around to tidy the paperwork before Vindur could sit down at the desk. "Let's just hope that we can spark that fire into an inferno."

"How poetic…" the older man muttered but couldn't deny the sentiment. He nodded. "I'm counting on it."

Lexi closed her bedroom door after her, trying to get her breathing under control. Furious at having been singled out after the meeting, she ran back to her room once she was clear of the audience hall.

She tossed the folder onto her bed and knelt on the cement floor to look for her journal. Finding the pen first, she grabbed it and tossed it over onto the desk against the opposite wall. Returning to the floor, she grabbed her leather journal and walked past her duffel bags to the desk. Pulling out the chair, she sat down, grabbed the pen and opened to her last entry.

Sorry I ended so abruptly last time. It seems as if things are going to be terribly different here than my last training center. Not that I'm surprised, but it'll just take some time getting used to.

As I suspected, I am the only female among the others. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad one. I really enjoy showing up the male population, but that also means that I'm going to be ridiculed to no end, among other things. Well, it'll be interesting to say the least.

I planned on writing some letters to people, so I think I'd better get on that before my free time is over.

Lexi paused, staring at the empty space below the entry. She turned to look at the folder on her bed before returning to her journal. Positioning the pen two lines below her last sentence, she signed her name.

Lunar Eclipse