"So, what should I call you?" Warrant Officer Murasame asked Ple as they rode a jeep across the military base.
"Hmm…" Ple thought for a moment, largely focused on driving the jeep. It wasn't like she was a reckless driver, but her driving could be described as…interesting, even if she hadn't run over someone or wrecked something. "…lieutenant will do while we're on duty. Ple or Elpeo will do when we're off-duty, or when you need to catch my attention. Don't call me by my number though; only my sister calls me that."
"Alright…" Murasame nodded, before continuing. "…I'm guessing that you're the third in a series of Cyber-Newtypes?"
"Close, but incorrect. Actually I'm the third clone of Elpeo Ple. Who wasn't a Cyber-Newtype by the way; from what I know, she was a powerful Newtype. My sister is number twelve. There were originally eleven clones, numbered two to twelve, but apart from myself and Marida, I'm not sure if any of my sisters are still alive."
"You're surprisingly accepting about all this." Murasame noted.
"Well, it's not like getting angry about this will solve anything." Ple said, as she drove the jeep sharply around a corner and causing a group of soldiers to jump out of the way. "I could say the same about you. You're quite calm about your situation, and your file even says you don't remember your past."
"True…" Murasame conceded with a shrug. "…but the past is just that: the past. Nothing we do will ever change it. All we can do is to keep on living and hope to atone for our past mistakes in the future."
"My thoughts exactly…" Ple replied as she braked suddenly and miraculously ended up parking the jeep perfectly in front of an MS hangar.
"Is there any particular reason your sister has a different name?" Murasame asked, getting out of the jeep and following Ple towards the entrance.
"It's a long story, and a rather private one. I'd appreciate it if you didn't ask." She replied after a short pause.
Murasame nodded and said "I understand; sorry for trying to pry."
"It's alright; it's only natural to be curious." Ple said, her cheerful demeanour returning as they entered the hangar. "Lieutenant Fran!" she called out, causing a silver-haired woman to look up from across the hangar and the tech crews to look at Ple and Murasame.
Noticing the two of them approach, Sophie Fran walked to meet them after picking up a folder and giving a few words to a technician. "Oh good, you must be Warrant Officer Murasame Seven correct?" she said as she met with the two. "I am Lieutenant Sophie Fran and I will be serving as your commanding officer."
"Warrant Officer Murasame Seven, reporting." Murasame said, giving a salute, which Sophie acknowledged with a nod.
"According to your data, you reacted unexpectedly with the enhancement procedures at the Murasame Institute; as such, while you failed to develop Newtype abilities, your body is much stronger and faster than a normal Human's, so much so that you could be classified as an Augmented Human as opposed to a Cyber-Newtype."
"I see…" Murasame said, unsure about what she was saying.
Sophie nodded before continuing "While this means assigning you a psycommu-equipped unit would be meaningless, your abilities would be wasted on a Geara Doga. As such, you'll be piloting something else."
At that she turned to her right, and following her line of sight, Ple whistled and laughed as she saw the mobile armour sitting there before saying "Well now, that's a blast from the past; an ORX-005 Gaplant. One of the fastest transformable mobile suits ever developed."
"And one of the hardest to pilot..." Sophie said seriously. "…seeing as the intense G-Forces of its enhanced speed ensures that only the strongest Humans can endure the strain of piloting the unit."
"It sounds perfect for me then." Murasame said with a faint smile, to which Ple eagerly nodded her agreement. "What about you Ple? What's your unit?"
In response, she pointed to the opposite side of the hangar where a white and violet mobile suit with a faintly insect-like appearance was standing. "AMX-004 Qubeley, just like old lady Haman used to pilot."
"And before you ask…" Sophie said, pointing a thumb over a shoulder. "…my unit is over there in the back. It's just a generic Geara Doga, but it's perfect for me. Now then, Ple I'll leave him to you. I have other matters to attend to."
"What…hey wait; what do you mean you have other matters to attend to?"
"The Angrboda returned last night; all squad leaders are getting a briefing over their mission in the next few days." After saying that, she waved a hand, and left the hangar.
Muttering curses under her breath, Ple walked towards the Gaplant followed by Murasame, who asked "What's the Angrboda?"
"It's a refitted Zanzibar-class Mobile Cruiser." She replied as they approached the unit. "Officially it was out testing out its systems in the Debris Belt, but rumour has it that it was sent to Earth."
"How would I know?"
"You're a Cyber-Newtype."
"Indeed…" Ple replied, smiling happily. "…apparently they've been causing all sorts of shit across ZAFT territory in Africa, and are indirectly responsible for the bloodbath that was the ZAFT assault on the Victoria spaceport. ZAFT won the battle, but it was a pyrrhic victory, and ZAFT only has a tenuous hold on the spaceport."
"How'd they pull that off?" Murasame asked as he dropped down into the cockpit and began a series of standard system diagnostics.
"A series of hit-and-run raids disrupted ZAFT communications across the entire region, and by cutting key supply lines at appropriate times, they not only delayed the ZAFT assault but caused a certain degree of mismanagement and confusion on the ground. If not for the ZAFT drop assault from orbit, the Alliance might have actually wiped out the ground assault and won the battle."
"Ever imagine what it'd be like if we were there?" Murasame asked with a feral smile as the diagnostics finished and he prepared the simulator programs.
Ple's smile was just as bloodthirsty as her partner's. "Isn't it obvious? ZAFT would listen and dance to my melody of death."
"My thoughts exactly…"
A few days later, three ZAFT pilots wearing the red uniforms of elite mobile suit pilots were walking down a corridor leading to Rau's office in ZAFT's Gibraltar base on Earth.
"Ah, it's good to see you again you three." ZAFT Commander Rau Le Creuset greeted the three of them as they entered his office, inwardly puzzled by Yzak's somewhat taciturn appearance. The young man seemed to have changed somewhat, and while he still kept the scar from his little brush with death against the Strike, he seemed calmer and less angry than before.
"I'm here to inform you that despite our bloody losses in South Africa, plans for Operation Spitbreak will continue to be developed with appropriate adjustments." He told them, pushing his concerns for Yzak to the back of his mind. "However, since I'll be busy directing preparations for the operation, I will also be unable to oversee the pursuit of the legged ship…Yzak, are you listening?"
Startled, Yzak quickly gathered himself and bowed in apology. "Please accept my apologies, but I was distracted by that photo on your desk."
"Oh I see…" Rau said, looking at the photo on his desk. "…it was my fault then. Well, since you've already seen it, and it's not really a secret to begin with, I might as well tell you what it is. This is a photo taken by an unmanned reconnaissance probe sent into Side 3, and the only legible one of any use it took. Though to be honest, we're not really sure what it is either."
"It looks some kind of ship with lots of really big external tanks to me…" Dearka said dismissively.
Yzak however, looked closer at the picture. Finally, he asked "What are the chances that Zeon has efficient and effective micro-fusion devices?"
Rau raised an eyebrow in response; that was a question he had not expected from Yzak. Finally, he answered "Quite high, seeing as their tech base is very different from ours."
"Then if I'm right, those are hydrogen tankers." Yzak reasoned out. "The Principality probably has a large store of nuclear fuel, but it won't last forever, so they probably want to secure a supply line to the largest store of free hydrogen in the solar system."
"Jupiter…" Nicol whispered, making the connection even as Dearka's eyes widened in surprise and Rau laughed heartily.
"Mineva Lao Zabi…" he said, calming down. "…that woman undoubtedly deserves her throne. She may be sympathetic to Earth, but all the same she doesn't intend to become dependent on them. Well, we'll worry about her when the time comes; for now, there doesn't seem to be any danger of military technology changing hands between the Alliance and the Principality." Once again regarding Yzak, he made a decision. The boy had changed somewhat, and in ways he had never predicted and still couldn't measure completely, and could possibly be a threat to his plans in the future, but for now he would be quite useful. "More importantly, regarding the pursuit of the legged ship, as I will be unable to oversee it, Yzak you will be in command."
"Congratulations Yzak!" Nicol quickly congratulated his friend, while a smirking Dearka gave him a congratulatory pat on the back. The young man in question, however, just gave a silent salute in response.
Banagher quickly grew concerned at the violin music that echoed across Mineva's house as he opened and closed the door, as it usually meant she was concerned about something, and she needed to calm herself and her thoughts down. Making his way to the second floor, he found her standing on a balcony with her eyes closed as she played a soft and calming song with her violin.
"Audrey…?" he said, causing her to stop playing abruptly and to open her eyes and to look at him in surprise. He was the only person now who called her that, and the only one who was allowed to get away with it. "Is something wrong?"
"…yeah. There is…" she said, sighing as she sat down and put her violin down on a nearby table. "According to our political analysts, that madman Patrick Zala is all but guaranteed to win in the next elections for the chairmanship of the PLANT Supreme Council."
"What did you see?" Banagher asked, worry obvious on his face; both he and Mineva were powerful Newtypes, and he knew she had seen something.
"I saw the Earth…it was dead." She whispered; her eyes hollow and her face contorted with horror. "The entire planet was burning…somehow I knew that this would Earth's fate if Patrick Zala would get his way."
"But if we join the Earth Alliance, then Blue Cosmos…" Banagher said, but broke off as Mineva looked at him.
"I know, but what are the lives of a few hundred million people in PLANT against the billions on Earth? It's a sadistic choice…but no. Zeon will not join the Alliance; there has to be another way…there just has to be…"
"Audrey…it's going to be alright. I'm sure we'll figure something out. We've done it before." He assured her with a smile while mentally reminding her of Laplace's Box and embracing her from behind, causing her to smile and hope to reappear in her eyes. "You are not alone. Everyone in Zeon is with you, and we have Char with us. Seriously, between the Zabi Dynasty and Zeon Zum Deikun's son, is there anything we can't do?"
"I suppose not." She answered, looking fondly over her shoulder at Banagher.
Yzak's transport had left Gibraltar long after Dearka and Nicol had left. Normally, Yzak would have been very irritated at the delay, but after his many brushes with death – he had the scar to prove it – and the loss of so many friends – Rusty, Athrun, Miguel – he began to find himself calmer and less angry about life. He even began to question his own and his mother's Coordinator-supremacist views, something he had never done before. All this was a profoundly confusing moment, and one he intended to silently brood on en route to Carpentaria.
Cagalli, for her part, was increasingly concerned as her damaged Sky Grasper began to run low on fuel and she could still find no sign of the Archangel. Her worrying was cut short when her IFF transponder began to register an unfriendly unit nearby…which was quickly revealed to be a ZAFT transport plane. Quickly manoeuvring her plane as to avoid a collision, she launched an attack, while the transport attempted to defend itself.
Aboard the transport, an irritated Yzak rushed into the cockpit to demand an explanation. "What the hell was that?"
"We're under attack!" one of the pilots told him, even as an explosion rocked the plane.
"That can't be right…we're over the Equatorial Union, and they're neutral…" Yzak began to say when the same pilot from before interrupted him.
"Hurry and get in your unit! We don't have any sub-flight lifters for your unit to fight in the air, and we don't have any DINNs either to counter-attack with! However, we did manage to get a signal off, and considering your unit's abilities, you should be able to survive on your own for a while, at least until a search team gets here! Hurry; if you go down with the plane, then your loss will be a stain on the honour of the supply corps!"
Cursing, Yzak rushed towards the hangar, but respected the pilots' determination and courage under fire. Within minutes, Yzak was in his unit's cockpit, and after several moments had activated his unit and jumped off of the plane and was free-falling down to the ocean below. He didn't see the plane's fate, but he did catch sight of a small island nearby, and used his engines to guide and slow the Duel's descent towards that island. Landing on the coast, he ran a quick check through all the frequencies, and while he was disappointed by the lack of contact from all ZAFT channels, he was satisfied with the lack of all hostile IFFs nonetheless.
Locking down his unit – no harm in being cautious after all – he armed himself and set out to explore the island. Which wasn't much; it barely took a few minutes to traverse it from coast to coast. He was just going to head back when he heard a twig snap behind him. Whirling he caught sight of a wet and surprised blonde boy…holding a gun and wearing a utility vest. Cursing, said boy fired off a shot, which Yzak dodged with ease, but he slipped and lost his gun in the process. Unwilling to confront an armed opponent on their terms, he managed to jump away and hid himself among some rocks as the boy ran forward to pick up his gun.
Growling, he felt the familiar anger rise deep inside him and smiled. It felt good to be back to being his usual irritable self.