The afternoon skies are clear when Treize's private plane arrives at the Luxembourg base, which used to be the former Alliance army's headquarter. Two weeks have passed since OZ has taken over the Earth Sphere, inheriting it from the collapsed Alliance.
When he exits through the hatch, there's a deep crimson carpet lying all the way between the gangway and the entrance to the building. To both sides of the carpet mobile suits have formed rows like a forest in order to greet him.
While marching down the carpet, he suddenly looks up to the sky and stops. He has noticed that among them only one machine, which is standing in row with Leos and Aries', has a unique hull.
"Is this Tallgeese?"
Raising an admiring voice, Treize looks at the white mobile suit which is twice as tall as the Leos beside it.
"I see... so it's no ordinary suit. It's obvious why they say only Zechs can handle it."
It seems that Treize, who is an excellent mobile suit pilot himself, can see the special characteristics of Tallgeese with just one glance.
"I was wondering about the very special treatment Major Zechs receives."
At the words spoken by Lady Une, who is following him one step behind, Treize stops and looks behind him.
"You give an excellent pilot an excellent machine.... Is there a problem?"
"That this may invite Major Zechs to become arrogant."
Smiling as if saying 'is there something to this?', Treize walks away.
"Lady, there is no need for you to worry about such things. Please turn your attention more to the general situation."
After saluting, Lady Une follows Treize towards the buildings of headquarters.
In the headquarters, in the room that has become Treize's office, Zechs and Noin are waiting for them. Zechs greets Treize with a salute as he enters the room.
"We have been waiting for you, Your Excellency."
Nodding, Treize slaps Zechs onto the shoulder.
"Thank you very much for all your pains and troubles."
Treize gazes from Zechs to Noin, who stands besides Zechs, and also thanks her for her efforts.
"Lieutenant Noin has performed well on the front line, even as a woman. Let me express my gratitude."
"I am very happy to hear this."
Lady Une frowns at the appearance of the two.
Why does Sir Treize have to thank his subordinates? And that they impudently accept this as if it were a given?
Lady Une cannot understand why Treize honours these two. What has Zechs done anyway? He has lost five subordinates and it seems that now he is blackguarded by backbiting, such as calling him 'subordinate killer'. And this time's conquest of the Luxembourg base is not very popular either. There is no running an organization and winning. He is, after all, just a simple pilot.
Lady Une swallows down the resentment inside her.
If I succeed with this mission, Zechs cannot be compared to me. Even Sir Treize's eyes should be opened then.
"So, all future matters have been entrusted to Lady Une. I guess you want to start immediately?"
Lady Une has lifted her face at Treize's words and answers right away "Yes. At 1600 hours the operation's debriefing will commence."
"This is quite soon. So, please be on your way."
Raising her voice in a sharp tone, Lady Une brings her heels together and salutes. Then, turning on her heels, she faces Zechs and Noin.
"Major Zechs, Lieutenant Noin. Both your names are on the participants' list. Come with me!"
"Ah, I have to talk to Zechs for a bit. I'll let him go right away."
After Treize has stopped the exiting Zechs, Lady Une looks at Noin.
"Then, Lieutenant Noin, don't be slow!"
Taking Noin with her, Lady Une leaves the room. Treize then goes around the desk which has become his own and sits down in the seat.
Zechs turns his mask covered face directly towards Treize and stands without moving.
Totally as if he were enjoying sitting in his seat, Treize remains silent for a while, but then soon steeples his fingers on the table and slowly begins talking to Zechs.
"So, I think you have sorted out your mind regarding the Alliance... What will you do now, Lightning Count, no, may I call you Lightning Baron?"
Through the series of battles regarding Operation Daybreak and by conquering the headquarters in Luxembourg without spilling blood, Zechs has done excellent work. Due to this, he had a special promotion over two ranks and has risen to become a second class major. Because in OZ, each class is attributed to a noble's status, Zechs, as a second class major, has become a Count.
"I think I would like to work under your Excellency a while longer."
"For me this is a very appreciated offer, but is it fine with you? Haven't you chosen the path to fight together with me in order to defeat the Alliance?"
"As it is now, my new name has been set to 'killer of subordinates'."
Zechs replies with a bitter voice. He cannot forget even now that he has lost five subordinates when he fought for the first time with the Gundams. Knowing this, Treize nods slightly.
"The Gundams...?" murmurs Treize. Zechs nods silently at him.
"Then do as you please."
"Thank you very much."
Having answered, Zechs is about to leave when Treize addresses him as if he were remembering something.
"By the way, are you not taking off this mask? Your vengeance is finished. You don't have to hide your face anymore, do you?"
Zechs stops, advances his right leg by half a step, and answers over his shoulder.
"That I fight while harbouring my own personal hatred has not changed. Please think of it as my distinction."
"You're indeed a very conscientious man. That's exactly why I can put my trust into you, Milliardo Peacecraft."
"Your Excellency, that name...."
Can he read the expression below the silver mask? Treize nods as if saying 'understood'.
"I'll count on it that you will someday take off this mask."
After saluting, Zechs leaves Treize's office behind him and heads towards the meeting room where the operation's debriefing will take place. Close to one hundred OZ officers are already assembled and are gazing up to a map projected onto a huge screen. As the responsible person for the planning of the operation and as commanding officer, Lady Une has entered a gondola mounted at the top of a mechanical lift and is before the screen.
After Zechs has entered, he finds Noin beside the wall at the rear end of the room and goes to stand beside her. As if she had been waiting for this, Lady Une starts with her explanations.
"The present operation is to transport fifty Taurus suits, which will be launched into space, to the Siberia base in order to insert a newly developed propulsion system."
At Lady Une's words, Noin frowns, and murmurs under her breath "'A new system' she says? I haven't heard about this."
The Lake Victoria Base, under Noin's control, has taken charge of the production of the Taurus suits. It's strange that this has not been communicated to Noin as base commander.
"Because the facilities as well as the defense of the Lake Victoria base are not trustworthy, this operation has come into existence."
As if Lady Une were answering Noin's question, she says this while looking down at Noin. She implicitly points out the attack by the Gundams.
"The Taurus suits will go from the Sinai peninsula through the Arabian peninsula under the rigourous protection from the African branch. Thereafter we will be transferring them. Momentarily, there are no threatening movements, but I have done everything possible. Even a false transport plan has already been published and all counter-measures imaginable have been taken. But this time we have no intention to let the enemy do as he pleases."
"As to this enemy, is it the Gundams?"
The question flies from among the officers. Lady Une nods.
"The Gundams have come to attack all movements of OZ. Also this time we will probably become a good target. But I will not only take over command, I will also certainly prevent such an interference."
Lady Une explicitly stresses the 'I' part. Zechs feels through his mask the glance directed at him and smiles bitterly.
The route on the map projected onto the screen goes entirely through the OZ sphere of influence. Having crossed the Arabian peninsula, it goes north. After going between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, it advances towards the east, heading towards the Siberia base.
Looking at this, Zechs nods.
"They can go through OZ controlled territory up to Siberia. In that case, the Gundams won't be able to interfere either."
Snorting at Zechs' words, Lady Une spits out the next words as if she were triumphant.
"Major Zechs, that's not how it is. They shall come out for us. I think this is part of the operation to annihilate the Gundams. The defeats so far were because cowardly soldiers took too much time to gather their data. This time, OZ sets out in all seriousness. Let me show you the true fighting style of these pilots...."
Lady Une's words are as if she were addressing Zechs directly. Even Zechs grimaces inside his mask.
"So, it may not be of much use, but I want to inform you beforehand on some general data of the Gundams."
It is not of much use...?
Zechs firmly presses his lips together.
Data obtained while losing five subordinates.
Data obtained in exchange for Walker's death.
And she says all this was in vain? Major Lady Une does not understand a soldier's soul.
Zechs slightly shakes his head which is still wearing the mask.
On the screen, pictures captured by a reconnaissance plane and a surviving mobile suit are projected. It's Heero's Wing.
"This machine, which descended over the Pacific Ocean, will be referred to as Gundam 01 from now on. Its characteristic is the mobility when it's in flight form. A conceivable strategy is to lure it into Aries airspace immediately after detection, shoot it down, and involve it in a protracted war. The beam rifle has three shots. Since it seems he uses them up at the beginning of battle, I want to warn you about this point.
"Next is 02."
This time, Duo's Deathscythe is projected. Contrary to the other four machines, its head is black from the body upwards.
"This is a machine that, with its stealth armour, has its specialty in infiltration and close combat. The point will be to detect is as soon as possible.
"Also with 03 the task is to get him to use up his ammunition as early as possible. Since it is pretty heavily equipped, difficulties to do so will be expected. 04 and 05 are also close combat types, but they seem to be more generally usable then 02. Avoid direct contact especially with 05, hold him back and take him down in a battle of material resources. Be first of all careful of the flamethrower in his right arm."
Accompanying Lady Une's voice, the three machines are displayed in order.
03 is Trowa's Heavyarms with its characteristic red and orange head.
04 is Quatre's Sandrock with its characteristic aristocratic decorations on head and shoulders.
05 is Wufei's Shenlong with its Chinese style armour and its way to imitate a dragon.
"This can be said of all machines, not one of them excels in organized combat. Also looking at their attack patterns so far, they have to attack alone. They want to be associated with each individual destruction. That's all. All of you, I leave it to you to gather the troups at each base along the route."
Then the gondola with Lady Une comes to stand before Zechs.
"So, I suggest that Major Zechs performs a counterattack against 01 with Tallgeese only, how is that?"
"It's impossible to do this alone! I'll go with him to assist."
Noin immediately objects to Lady Une, who is looking down at Zechs from above.
Noin cuts off Zechs, who is about to object.
"Some Aries are left in the Lake Victoria base. Please allow me to command them in a sortie."
"I order Lieutenant Noin to work in the command center. You will be my assistant. Are there any objections?"
Especially if there is no command, she can object in any case, but if it becomes an order, she cannot object.
"Major Zechs has suffered a hard blow through 01. Now that he has received the suit called Tallgeese, I wish to set the stage for him to take revenge on this adversary."
If he wins it's normal. If he loses, the whole operation will be Zechs' fault.
These are Noin's bitter thoughts. She knows that Lady Une dislikes Zechs, but she didn't think that she would show it openly to this extent.
However, after nodding to Lady Une, Zechs turns towards Noin.
"Noin, it's perfectly all right. I would have suggested as well for you to be in the command center."
Zechs continues talking to Noin, who has said his name in a protesting tone.
"With the counterattack, fast and precise information is necessary. I ask you to help us in this respect."
Lady Une sees that Noin grudgingly agrees and shows a smile in the corners of her mouth. Then she raises her voice to everybody in this place.
"So, all hands commence operation immediately!"
The OZ officers present in the room scatter all at once.