The beginnings of what would have been the fourth part. I never ended up finishing and posting it, but it was written, so I might as well put it here.


She does not participate in the meeting. Too new, too insignificant to even be considered.

The black-haired newcomer plucks at her curiouity, but the girl is locked in a room, guarded by two senior warriors - one on either side of the door - and had seemed deeply unconscious during the few brief moments she was visible on the way in.

It's not only that. The mark on her skin - the black, grinning brand in the shape of a mask - is not unique. Several of the returning warriors had also been marked in the same way. Not in the same location, or with the same shape, but the black stains on their skin are unmistakably related to her own mark.

There must be an explanation. Some meaning behind this mark. A reason why she feels so hungry. A reason why her head feels so crowded.

A reason why her fingers are still itching to put a bullet in her own head.

She is restless, and there is nothing she can do to still that. Instead she waits outside the war room, pacing. She doesn't know why walking makes it more bearable, but it does; even it lacks a rational explanation, the comfort it brings is more important than the question why.

The meeting does not take long, but the delay seems eternal. She eats the rest of her ration while she waits, and it settles in her stomach like a leaden lump - does nothing to still her hunger or anxiety.

When the door opens, she presses her back to the wall and tries to look as if she has a right to be there.

Heat sweeps past her without so much as a glance.

Serph follows him a moment later. He turns his head slightly as he passes, and for some reason, rather than studying the new mark on his cheek, she finds herself staring into his eyes - wondering if they have always been that shade of grey; not quite the same as the others, but brighter, almost like silver.

Before she can get a second look, he turns away and disappears down the corridor. As she stares after him, Argilla, the sniper, follows, and the three of them turn the corner at the far end, heading out.

Then there's silence.

Minako glances at the door to the war room. It's ajar - she can't see anything inside, but there must still be two people inside: she saw both Gale and Cielo enter before the meeting began. She knows their names, their appearances, but has never spoken to either of them.

Perhaps it is time she did. After all, with the leader gone, who else can she turn to? And the mark on her arm throbs angrily, reminding her of its existence.

She must know. And so she pushes the door open and enters.

Gale wastes no energy as he moves. He studies the map like a hawk-

She does not know what a hawk is, but she knows the comparison is apt.

Gale turns his head as she enters, spares her one brief glance, and turns away again. Stands like a statue, regarding the map. Moves only to change the view. It's mesmerizing, but she did not come here to gawk. Trying to swallow the feeling of unease that gathers like a lump in her throat, she steps up to the table.

"Sir."

He turns to her, pierces her with his cold, grey stare. "Yes."

She swallows - literally, this time. "These markings. Do you have an explanation?"

Gale's gaze flits down to her arm, to the grinning skull-mask there, then back up to her face.

"No." Just the plain fact without embellishment. But he keeps looking at her, expecting there to be more.

She doesn't know how he does it. After all, even she doesn't know what she expects to say.

"My orders...?"

"Our orders are to guard the base. You will take the third watch with the prisoner. Stand by until then."

She doesn't know if it's blind luck or perception.

She doesn't know if she cares.

All she knows is that her heart skips a beat.

"Yes," she says, and salutes. "Sir."