"Information regarding the Corsica factory has come in."
This takes place on board the cargo plane flying from the Mediterranean to the South, heading for the Lake Victoria base located in Central Africa.
Since taking off, Zechs has wrapped himself in silence, not uttering one single word. He is called by Soldier Bruno, sitting in the co-pilot's seat.
"It says that at the time reinforcement arrived, the enemy suits had vanished and that 55% of the installation was destroyed."
It has been only two hours since they departed from the base. The enemy Gundams have finished destroying the mobile suit factory up to the point where it was impossible to restore it.
Walker, we have gratefully received the data of the new two enemy suits.
Zechs silently prays to Soldier Walker who died while probably trying to protect the base.
No, not the base.
Zechs slightly shakes his head inside the mask.
He has died for the future soldiers of OZ. For the people now getting through the training institute they're heading towards, and who will becoming new soldiers.
At the Lake Victoria Base they're now heading towards, there is a training facility for the "Specials" as well as a mobile suit production factory. The factory should be equipped to mass produce the newest form of mobile suits - the Taurus. Zechs intends to have the Tallgeese, entrusted to him by Walker, restored there. Besides, a friend of Zechs occupies the post of the person in charge.
"Then there is a report from the scout plane about the prior mobile suit that attacked the Indus supply base, however..."
"So it has disappeared?" Zechs asks, finally lifting his head at Bruno's announcement.
"Yes. It has been the only suit we could track, but it disappeared just after crossing the equator."
"The target is Noin's base, isn't it."
"The Alliance Army is too open. Even civilian children know that the Taurus mobile suit for use in space is manufactured at the Lake Victoria base."
"And then I come along. Only somebody like Noin could welcome such a troublesome person."
"You two were surely in the same class at the Lake Victoria training institute, weren't you?" asks Lieutenant Otto, turning around in the pilot's seat for a moment.
"You know this well."
"I surely know this well! Of course there isn't anybody who doesn't know the best and second best graduates among all the graduates at Lake Victoria. And also that Lieutenant Zechs by far occupied the first rank."
At Otto's word, Zechs shakes his head while his mouth shows a smile, seemingly mocking himself.
That's not how it is. She has always aimed at the second rank because she always wanted me to succeed. It was not so important for her to continously achieve good results. But it was different for me. I had to graduate from the training institute with good results and enter into OZ. In order to investigate the inside of the Alliance army....
As he remembers the past, Zechs slightly flinches.
He was a burden the whole time. Can he accept her help again?
"Lieutenant Zechs, we have established a connection with the Lake Victoria Base."
Zechs wakes from his musings at Soldier Bruno's words and leans towards the monitor.
"It has been a long time, Lieutenant Zechs."
On the monitor, a woman with short black hair smiles slightly. She's a pretty woman with features of clearly South European descent. One can read from her "Specials" uniform that she's one rank below Zechs, namely a first class Lieutenant.
"You are the same as always, Noin."
Zechs voice resounds a bit more cheerful. But his facial expression under his mask is unknown.
"You seem to have been very busy. Rumours about the Lightning Count could even be heard here at Lake Victoria."
"I don't like rumours flying ahead. It makes you a target for the enemy and your friends expect results from you which surpass your capabilities."
With a roguish light in her clear eyes, the Lieutenant called Noin smiles at Zechs, who again shows a bitter smile.
"Rumours are a great thing. How about the rumours about me?"
"I heard that you have achieved great results in training pilots for space. You have a very good reputation as an accomplished fighter. But Noin. Why are you here, since you didn't like the war, no, you didn't like to fight?"
"I'm honoured that you remember me hating the war. It's just that I like space."
Zechs tells a smiling Noin in a changed tone of voice "There are bad news."
A sharp gleam enters the eyes of Noin on the monitor at that words.
"It's the enemy, isn't it."
"It is. At least one machine is on its way here. The target may be the Tauruses of this base."
"Understood. I will start immediately with the preparations for taking away the Tauruses."
"Please do so. We will arrive within a hour. I'd like to meet you then."
After saluting, Zechs cuts the connection.
After finishing her communication with Zechs, Noin issues an emergency roll-call to her trainees. Then, she heads as well towards the mobile suit hangar besides the runway.
Zechs Merquise, no, Milliardo Peacecraft... does he come to coax me again?
While walking, Noin softly smiles inside herself.
It has been 1 year and 22 days.
Even without having to count on her fingers, the years and months since her farewell from Zechs swim in her head.
So I just likes space... Of course, it's not only that. There's a more important reason that I'm in OZ. But I don't intend to tell this to Zechs. If I told him, he would probably feel as though it were a heavy burden for him to carry. Besides, this man has an important goal.
Noin shakes her head strongly, as if shaking off something. There's a bit of sadness in her expression, but in the next moment she changes into a very determined commander.
Before the hangar, 16 trainees are already standing in one line. All members are leaving the institute today to become new soldiers.
"With the present day, you are graduating from your training. You have endured well my commands. From today, you will become a honourable member of the 'Specials'."
Putting her hand to her forehead, Noin salutes and steps before the soldiers, raising her voice.
"The Tauruses you will enter in space have become the target of the enemy. Therefore, this becomes the first task for you now that you've become a member of OZ. Every fully trained person will bring his own Taurus into the cargo plane. Until this is finished, all members will remain at stand-by."
"Isn't it possible to leave this to the transport crew?"
One of the soldiers raises his voice as if this were bothersome.
Noin heads straight for this soldier and strikes his cheek with her open palm.
"I don't remember training a person who can't protect his own suit! I must have told you. It's an emergency. Prepare immediately!"
Noin watches after the soldier who disperse heading for the hangar. Then her look goes up towards the sky. Her eyes catch the appearance of a blue cargo plane far away between the clouds.
After the plane has landed, Zechs has met Noin and was invited by her for a drink. They are in a room inside the training facility.
There's a barlounge with a counter and besides it, lots of open space. Judging by the lightning installations on the ceiling, it's a disco.
Zechs gets an old fashioned glas that Noin stretches out to him, then brings the glasses slightly together. After hearing a 'ching', Zechs puts the glass lightly to his lips and opens his mouth while enjoying the smell of the Scotch.
"When can you send away the Tauruses?"
"It's possible tomorrow morning at 5 a.m."
Noin's answer sounds as if she's slapping somebody.
"That's the last possible moment."
"I guess so. But we can't ship them out if they're not yet finished. Since I've heard that the enemy can't be captured on the radar, I have for the time being increased the number of guards."
"That's the best measure."
"I'm honoured by your praise, Lieutenant Zechs."
"Zechs is fine."
Zechs laughs suddenly and looks around the room again.
"But this is a cheerful room."
The mirrorball on the ceiling is indeed quiet because of the present emergency, but many cocktail lights run around the floor.
"Because it becomes desolate if the lighting is switched on. Shall I extinguish it?"
"No, it's okay."
As Zechs shakes his head, Noin smiles slightly. Since their time at the training insitute Zechs has not had fun often. That's where he is different from other men.
"There are many young soldiers here who are in an age where they want to have fun. This at the very least was necessary."
"If you take so many pains, saying goodbye will be tough."
"Thank you for being worried. But the soldiers taught by me will never come to die. To overestimate oneself is not part of my strategy. I think that the high value of life and fighting do not go well together."
"A few days ago I've had a few times to watch subordinates dying. Noin, I disagree with your opinion."
Zechs remembers the five people he has lost in the fighting with the Gundams. He can understand Noin's opinion, but doesn't she see a too ideal battle? Even if you don't overestimate yourself, there is no such thing as a battle where you can chose the enemy and the situation.
Zechs' contradiction is born because he views the battle realistically, with cold eyes.
"A battle where you risk your life is only the result of a mistake. I pity the soldiers who are driven into it and die."
The soldiers are not driven into it. The battle... the situation drives them into it, Noin.
But he knows that this is not the place to tell this to Noin. Noin has hardly ever gone out to a real battle. And he wants to pray that hopefully she doesn't have to go out in the future either.
When Zechs wants to open his mouth, a communication device fastened to the wall makes a noise. Noin stretches out her hand and picks up the receiver.
"This is Noin. Ah, Zechs, Lieutenant Otto is contacting you."
Zechs takes the receiver. The noise of a machine reaches his ears at a quite high volume. It's so loud that he has trouble hearing the important voice of Otto. The machine in question seems to be the Tallgeese, which was brought into the mobile suit factory.
"Even the engineers here are astonished. The level of completion of this mobile suit is higher than we thought. If it continues like this, it will be finished earlier than planed. But even though, I think it will last another one or two months."
"Really? I'm glad. Please take good care of it."
When Zechs had cut the connection and wants to put back the receiver, he hears a "clank" from his feet. Even without looking down, Zechs knows what kind of sound this is. Noin hits the scabbard of his sabre with the scabbard of her own sabre.
In the quiet recreation room, the two scabbards repeat the "clank" as if totally replacing Noin's words.