The Ra Calium slowly guided itself downward into Von Braun City's open airlock; the thrusters on the battleship keeping it steady throughout the routine maneuver. They had reached the Space Ark several minutes before, taking on most of the personnel while the training ship headed for Frontier Two for resupply and repairs. Among them were Seebook and Cecily, both having been treated in the ship's infirmary, as well as the damaged Gundam F-91 and ruined Vigna Ghina, which Astionage was practically obsessing over. After taking on its new burden, they had finally arrived at Von Braun to resupply and update it's forces.
Amuro made his way to the bridge, going over in his mind what he should say to Bright after all this time. The last time they saw each other was during the Neo-Zeon War, when he tried before to prevent Char from carrying out his goals. That one mistake planted the seeds of future conflicts, leading up to the current Earth Alliance war with ZAFT. If he had managed to kill him then, perhaps others wouldn't have been inspired to become him over the years. Perhaps then the ghosts of the past would've been finally allowed to rest.
He finally arrived at the bridge of the Ra Calium, seeing how much it had changed since he had last been onboard the ship. Bright turned around from his command chair, rising up to greet his comrade of the past twenty years.
"It's good to finally see you again, Amuro." Bright said with a smile on his face. "How've you been?"
"A lot changed for me, Bright, but I'm doing okay." Amuro replied as he noticed some of the newer equipment added to the bridge. "I heard about what happened to Hathaway a few years ago. I'm sorry about that."
"It's... thank you." Bright told him, his face suddenly shadowed with regret at the memories of his son. "I appreciate that." Hathaway Noah had fallen into a cultist group of Newtypes, still despondent over the death of Quess Paraya during the Neo-Zeon War. The group had changed him into something he wasn't, forcing him into the cockpit of the RX-105 Xi Gundam and fighting against the Earth Federal Forces. He eventually was killed in a battle with the Federation's prototype RX-104FF Penelope, Bright helpless to even save his only son. The pain never left him or Mirai, instead becoming duller with time but never truly abating. A natural feeling for any parent who had lost their firstborn child.
Seebook stood silently near the rear of the bridge while the two men talked. He had heard stories about the most famous Newtypes from the pre-Cosmic Era wars from the Space Ark's crew. Now he was standing in the presence of one of those legendary heroes. To say that he was speechless was an understatement.
"So you're Amuro Ray?" Seebook managed to finally say. "The one who defeated Char Aznable in both the One Year War and the Neo-Zeon war."
"I fought against him, if that's what you mean." Amuro replied, feeling uneasy at the sense of hero worship coming from the black-haired boy. He knew that some of the younger pilots looked up to him, Bright, and Sayla as near superhuman icons. That perception of him as something beyond human was uncomfortable to accept. He never wanted anyone to see that from him, not with the series of flaws that followed his career as well as his life.
"Seebook is the pilot of the SNRI's Gundam F-91." Bright explained. "From what Captain Leahlee told me, he has serious potential as both a pilot and as a Newtype." Ignoring Seebook's look of embarrassment, Bright continued in a lower tone of voice. "The feeling I get from him is a lot like you and Camille Bidan had, Amuro. If this keeps up..."
"So you want me to take him under my wing?" Amuro finished, knowing what Bright was going to ask him. "I don't know about that, Bright. I'm not exactly qualified to be anyone's mentor."
"I'm not asking that. I'm just asking that you help him learn from your own experiences." Bright placed a hand on Amuro's shoulder, a look of vague concern in his eyes. "At least give it some thought. He and most of his generation reveres you and everything we accomplished out here."
"And exactly what have we accomplished? I'm not a superman for people to look up to for hope." Amuro glanced back at Seebook, seeing the young man silently thinking to himself. The once-powerful Newtype did see a lot of himself in his green eyes, like staring back into a fractured mirror of himself from twenty years before. He couldn't deny that.
"On the other hand, it wouldn't be so bad helping him build upon his own experiences." With that, Amuro went over to Seebook, disturbing they young man from his thoughts. "Your name's Seebook, right?"
"I heard about your battle with the Crossbone Vanguard earlier. I'm glad you'll be with us for a little while." He extended his hand, sensing Seebook's feelings of gratitude from the small compliment. The young Newtype then gripped it, the nervous feeling of being in his presence beginning to fade already.
"Thanks, I guess."
Cecily sat alone in the Ra Calium's chapel, feeling empty and isolated since leaving the ship's infirmary. She needed some small sense of comfort in the ensuing chaos that followed her, to feel something other than the remains of Iron Mask's thoughts in her mind. He had practically mind-raped her just to exercise his mental prowess, drawing the fears and resentment inside her mind to the surface and feeding on them as a leech would on blood. Even in death, the voice of that madman she once called her father still echoed within her mind. Coming here was a need to escape, to flee from those memories.
She felt tears begin to stream down her face as she clasped her hands, praying to anyone she hoped was listening that the inner turmoil and confusion would release her soon. She had betrayed her friends when she sided with the Crossbone Vanguard, almost believing she was the Berah Ronah they had wanted her to be. She had betrayed herself by cutting her long, orange-red hair to live with her grandfather's well-intentioned ideals. She then betrayed what was left of her family when Seebook came in the Gundam F-91, forcing them to fight and for her to choose. She never wanted her friends as enemies. That was what made her come back. She needed to feel like herself again, to understand what was right and wrong as she used to.
"I had a feeling I'd find you here." Cecily turned around, seeing Sayla Mass coming towards her wearing the same civilian clothing she wore on Earth. She had forsaken her duties as a doctor for the moment, since the ship still had an active medical staff, and learned about what they young woman had been though. She sympathized greatly, the memories of her own depression regarding her Zeon heritage returning to haunt her.
"May I sit down?" Sayla asked the young woman, seeing the intense lament Cecily was languishing over. The young woman's eyes were already becoming bloodshot from crying, the sensation of sorrow and guilt echoing from her in waves.
"I keep trying to rationalize what Seebook and I had done." Cecily said, once more looking down into her hands in reflection. "Iron Mask was insane, someone who wanted to play God and reshape the colonies as he saw fit. He would've done anything to accomplish that, even abandon his own humanity. But... but how can I still hate someone who is my own father so much?"
"You know, there was a woman who had gone through the same ordeal." Sayla told her, placing her arm across Cecily's shoulders in comfort. "During the One Year War, she had to cope with her own brother being on the side of the Republic of Zeon. She begged and pleaded for him to come back to her and be the family they were meant to be but he didn't listen. Eventually, he became consumed by war and let it destroy him. Since then, despite that he was still her brother, she began to hate the person he had become in the end." Sayla paused, her own tears beginning to run at the memories of her brother's obsession with avenging their family name.
"How do you know all of this, Miss Sayla?" Cecily asked as she looked at the older woman, seeing her fighting to keep bad memories from enveloping her once more. "Who was the woman you were talking about?"
"Her name was Artesia," Sayla told her as she removed her arm, "someone I used to know a long time ago. My point is that you shouldn't destroy yourself over things you couldn't change. Yes, Iron Mask was still your father but he was also someone who needed to be stopped from killing innocent people. Perhaps ending his life was the only way."
"That doesn't mean it was the right choice!"
"No one's saying that it was. In a war, you have to make hard choices when innocent lives are at stake, even when the enemy is someone you care about or your own family."
Cecily saw a hard look come into Sayla's ocean-blue eyes, one of resolve and regret at the same time. She wondered what had darkened this woman's past to the point when she needed to cross that line. She also prayed that she would never have to do it for herself again. She clasped the older woman's hand and smiled lightly in gratitude.
"Thank you, Miss Sayla. I still need to think but... I'm starting to understand."
"In that case, I'll let you be alone then." With that, Sayla rose from the bench and walked out of the chapel, leaving Cecily behind to decide for herself whether or not she would let the line between right and wrong blur in the face of war.
"Was it really necessary for you to kill those two guards on our way here?" Olba Frost asked his brother, Shagia, as he wheeled himself in.
"They were starting to irritate me with their endless questions." Shagia replied, replacing his gun inside of its holster. "Besides, it was much easier than simply knocking them out."
The two Frost brothers were both veteran pilots from the former Earth Federation, at first only seeking the power of the lunar-based microwave system. The mechanism was designed to transmit powerful microwaves from orbiting satellites into any mobile suit or armor, converting the waves into high-intensity energy used as a weapon. The Newtype-use Gundam X and Gundam Double-X used to use the energy for their satellite cannons. Since that fateful battle in lunar orbit, the system was dormant and they had been imprisoned on Earth for their crimes. However, with the help of a benefactor from ZAFT, they were able to escape their incarceration and were instructed to come to Granada on the moon.
The Granada base was one of the few reminders from the pre-Cosmic Era wars that remained untouched on the lunar surface. After the Neo-Zeon conflict, the Earth Federation had stripped the facility bare and abandoned it, instead relocating to one of the colonies near Earth for peacetime strategy arrangements. Yet in the aftermath of the Seventh Space War and the current war with ZAFT, no one except for Shagia and Olba Frost had thought to reactivate the lunar base from its dormancy. It was here that they were told to meet with several unknown people, absolute secrecy being paramount at the moment.
"If you gentlemen are finished with your bantering..." the voice of Nanai Miguel, the current de-facto leader for the remaining Neo Zeon forces, said to them from an open doorway to a conference room. "Come on. The others are waiting." She had changed since Neo-Zeon's defeat, instead taking on a persona mirroring Kycilla Zabi towards her remaining troops. She was a difficult woman to understand at times to her subordinates, a sense of mourning shrouding her hard persona. It was true in a physical sense. She and Char Aznable were lovers shortly before his supposed demise at the hands of Amuro Ray. Yet that didn't prevent her from pulling together the representatives of several different forces against the Earth sphere. It was why she wanted Shagia and Olba Frost there, the two having worked alongside the Earth Federation at one point.
There were others seated around the table in the conference room, some of who were familiar and some who were not. Lancerow Daril, the current leader of the remaining Space Revolutionary Army and an unfortunate reminder of Char to Nanai. Dorel Ronah, the sole remaining heir-apparent to the Crossbone Vanguard as well as the youngest person seated. Finally, there was Patrick Zala, leader of the ZAFT military forces as well as Athrun Zala's father. Of all those present, it was he who was the most cryptic.
"I asked Shagia and Olba Frost to be here since they've dealt with the Old and New Earth Federation once before." Nanai explained to the assembly, her being the only woman present not affecting her in the least. "Their insight into those governments might be useful in understanding the Earth Alliance's current state."
"Although we've been in prison most of the time," Shagia said, "we did happen to keep in contact with certain 'friends' who happened to update us on current events. At the moment, the Atlantic Federation is pushing for military support from some of the neutral nations. They've even gone as far as to send troops to enforce their positions."
"From what I understand, the Orb kingdom has been one of the few holdouts." Lancerow added, having spent some time on Earth after the D.O.M.E. incident. "Being the only nation outside of Earth or ZAFT that has produced mobile suits, it would seem that they're in a position to completely alter the outcome of this war."
"True, however consider what would happen if the Alliance succeeded in overthrowing the kingdom." Dorel mentioned. "Adding their Moregenrate mobile suit facilities to their arsenal would tip the balance of power too far in their favor. If that happened, they would be in a position to directly attack the Crossbone fleets as well as ZAFT."
"Perhaps, however there is one thing here no one's considered." Patrick Zala finally spoke, his voice oddly calm as he looked at Nanai directly. He had heard about the Neo-Zeon defeat in UC 0093 and was puzzled by the woman before them. She was planning something, otherwise she wouldn't have asked all of them to be here. "Londo Bell's here on the lunar surface now. With them, according to rumor, is supposedly Amuro Ray back from the grave."
"Rest assured, Chairman Zala, that neither Amuro Ray NOR Londo Bell will pose any type of threat to us." Nanai said coldly, scowling at the mention of the almost-legendary Newtype and what happened to Char. "I already have my own devices in play to cast all of our enemies into nothing but stardust." She motioned to a figure standing silently in the shadows to come forward, smiling smugly as a revelation passed over the men present.
"...Nanai, you can't seriously mean..." Lancerow said, beginning to understand what the Neo-Zeon commander intends to do.
"What I mean, gentlemen, is that a ghost from the Earth Federation's own past is also going to be Londo Bell's destruction." Nanai answered. "Then the Earth Alliance will follow soon enough." With that, the meeting ended as the assembly began to leave the conference room. She then turned to the figure, seeing him stand perfectly at attention and ready for instructions.
"That means you too, Commander Kou Uraki." Nanai instructed. "You know what has to be done."
"Understood." The former test pilot of RX78-GP03 Gundam Stamen/Deborodorium said with a salute, turning on his heels as he walked out of the conference room. Nanai remained behind, her mind on what Patrick Zala had told her. If Amuro was back, Char would be as well. He was out there somewhere, possibly planning his own motives as well.
"Char..." Nanai thought bitterly, her thoughts turning cold at the mention of her former lover. "You're still alive somewhere, aren't you? Then understand one thing: if you interfere, I WILL kill you as well."