In December UC 0079, the assault carrier Thoroughbred of the 16th Autonomous Corps prepares to conduct a mobile suit test, and Capt. Lombard Kilstein asks operator Miyu Takizawa what the new units are capable of. Luce Kassel’s Gundam 4th and Ford Romfellow’s Gundam 5th engage two Guncannons in mock combat, but Ford annoys Miyu by moving too far forward and breaking formation. Kilstein orders Miyu to have the Gundams return to the ship, and he asks her to debrief the pilots before he meets with them. She says she’ll pass along his concerns about the Gundams, and he notes that they’ll form the backbone of the unit in real combat. Miyu thinks to herself how they were originally just an experimental unit working on a high mobility space combat mobile suit at the Augusta Base, but that changed as the One Year War shifted to space. Miyu heads down to the mobile suit hangar, where mechanic Annie Brevig is annoyed with Ford for overusing the Gundam 5th’s verniers and putting stress on the joints. Ford counters that it’s to raise his potential, plus he destroyed the enemy. Miyu agrees with Annie, and Annie notes that Luce didn’t even use half as much fuel as Ford did. Luce exits his cockpit and explains that he’s just more experienced in space. Annie jokes that Ford is a toddler who could learn from watching someone experienced like Luce. Luce states that Ford is more than capable as a pilot and has something that he lacks. Miyu tells Ford and Luce they have a meeting with Kilstein in an hour. Ford wants to get some rest, and Miyu tells him that he wastes energy on useless acrobatics. At the briefing, Kilstein tells Ford and Luce that the Earth Federation Forces fleet that launched from Jaburo is resupplying at Luna II before initiating Operation Cembalo. Before being able to attack the Zeon homeland, the EFF has to deal with the lunar city Granada and the space fortress Solomon. Luce figures attacking either location will result in the Zeon sending a reinforcement fleet, and Kilstein adds that they have to attack both places to avoid being attacked from the rear. Their mission is conduct reconnaissance on Granada, and when Ford interprets that as them starting an attack, Kilstein notes that’s not possible. Miyu explains that the 16th Autonomous Corps is made up of only the Thoroughbred and two Salamis cruisers. However, their two Gundams are high mobility units and the fleet is equipped with the latest stealth equipment. Kilstein says they’ll play to their strengths to stop the main fleet from being attacked in the rear. Ford thinks that means a surprise attack, and Kilstein says much will be expected from their Gundams. Later, Miyu finds Ford in the mobile suit simulator, and he brags about being undefeated in it. An alarm sounds, so Ford heads to the mobile suit hangar. On the bridge, Kilstein is informed that they’ve picked up a small scout fleet of three Musais and two Zakus, so he orders an attack before their position can be reported to Solomon or Granada. The fleet begins dispersing Minovsky particles to combat density, and the Thoroughbred deploys its Guncannons, followed by the Gundams. Miyu tells Ford not to overdo things since this is his first battle, but he flippantly responds that he has to have fun in life. The Public ships fire their radar jamming missiles, and Ford blasts one of the Zakus with his beam rifle. The Musais open fire, but one of them is destroyed by Ford and Luce. The Thoroughbred also opens fire, and eventually all the Musais are destroyed.
An operator informs Kilstein that due to the radar jamming it isn’t likely that the Musais were able to send any transmissions. Ford boasts that he shot down more enemies than Luce, but Luce responds that numbers aren’t the problem. After the Gundams return to the ship, Kilstein orders Miyu to call another meeting. At the meeting, Kilstein yells at Ford over his recklessness and reminds him that the Gundams are for military use, not racing. Miyu notes that the Gundams are designed as anti-ship units due to their high mobility and firepower. Working together, both Gundams can attack an enemy from both sides, but Kilstein notes that Ford’s teamwork was horrendous and that Luce had to protect his flank. Kilstein says that Ford has to understand the battle as a whole, not just the enemy in front of him. Luce asks about the Gundams’ specialized weaponry, and Annie calls in from the hangar to explain that the Gundam 4th’s mega beam launcher isn’t ready yet due to its unstable output. She adds that the launcher is powerful enough to destroy an enemy fleet. There are no problems with the Gundam 5th’s giant Gatling gun, but since it’s meant to provide support while the mega beam launcher charger, it’s useless by itself. Ford thinks he can still shoot down enemies with the Gatling gun, and Luce sighs over Ford not getting it. He sees they can’t use the Gundam 4th to its full potential, and Kilstein responds that they’ll have to make do with what they have. Kilstein mentions the old U-boats from the 20th century, which could destroy targets without detection. Luce and Ford see the connection to their fleet’s strategy, and Kilstein emphasizes how important coordination between the two Gundams is. At Granada, Zeon pilot Jake Guns and operator May Kauwin are informed that there are no spare ships available. May tells Jake that there’s another way because she has an acquaintance in the city. She asks him what he’ll do when he gets back to Side 3, and he says he’ll rejoin the fight for the sake of his fallen comrades. They ride an elevator down to a mobile suit hangar and see the new Act Zaku under maintenance. They attract the attention of an officer named Mallet Sanguine, who calls them weaklings for fleeing Earth and coming back to Granada. May’s friend Jasto recognizes her and says hello, and Mallet storms off in a huff. Jake asks who he is and is told that Mallet is an ace mobile suit pilot who was sent the Act Zaku directly from Pezun. May asks about a ship to Side 3, and Jasto offers to speak to Granada’s commanding officer, Nord Wrangell. Luce and Ford are woken up and ordered to sortie when a Zeon fleet is detected launching from Granada. Ford jokes to the Guncannon pilots to watch their backs, and Luce takes him aside and reminds him how important teamwork is. As Ford prepares to launch, Miyu informs him that the enemy is two Musais and one Chibe, and he should take the Gatling gun to face a wide variety of enemies. Miyu reminds Ford and Luce how important teamwork is, and Ford boasts that he can defeat the enemy by himself with the Gatling gun. After all the mobile suits launch, Luce thinks to himself that Ford is getting too excited. The Zeon fleet picks up the EFF fleet and launches its Zakus and Rick Doms. Despite Luce telling him that the enemy ships aren’t important, Ford advances on his own to attack them. Ford uses the Gatling gun to destroy one of the Musais, and Luce tells him not to let his guard down. Ford misses while targeting Rick Doms and is quickly surrounded. However, Ford dodges their attacks and uses the Gatling gun to destroy six Rick Doms. The Zeon fleet enters the firing range of the EFF fleet, so Kilstein orders the Gundams and Guncannons to fall back. The EFF fleet opens fire, and Ford ignores the retreat order so that he can destroy the Musai on his own. Miyu realizes how intoxicating and dangerous the power of the Gundam 5th is.
On December 24, the EFF initiates Operation Cembalo to capture Solomon. The Thoroughbred is tasked with eliminating any Zeon reinforcements coming out of Granada. In Granada, Jake thanks May for finding them a ship to Side 3, and Mallet is upset that they’re still hanging around. Jake explains that he’s back on duty and will fight for his comrades, but Mallet insists that real soldiers fight for their countries. Mallet is called into a meeting with Nord and asks who Jake and May are, but Nord tells him not to worry about them. He mentions that the war situation is looking grim, but they won’t lose once their reinforcements launch for Solomon and A Baoa Qu. Mallet doesn’t see the point in sending reinforcements to people too weak to defend themselves, and Nord notes that there’s no point in Granada surviving if their space fortresses fall. Nord assigns Mallet the mission of defending the reinforcement fleet from the EFF fleet that is hiding near Granada. Nord asks Mallet what he’s fighting for, and Mallet answers victory. Nord says that Spacenoid independence is the purpose of the war, and Mallet counters that a soldier should only focus on winning battles. After Mallet leaves, Nord laments that if they lose, Spacenoids will be neglected again, but he also wonders what a Zabi victory would bring. On the Thoroughbred, Annie tells Luce that she’s having trouble with the external power unit that powers the Gundam 4th’s mega beam launcher. Annie asks why they want to use the mega beam launcher so badly given how strong the Gundam 4th is, and Luce explains that they’re demanding too much of Ford. Annie thinks that Luce does all the work, and Luce responds that Ford is reckless, but there’s also good in that. He says that Ford is being pushed by what the Gundam 4th lacks in battles. Luce fears that Ford’s recklessness will get him killed some day, and Annie sees that Luce cares about Ford. She asks about their history, and Luce explains they both served at the Augusta Base, where they trained in simulators for new mobile suits. He recalls an instance where Ford got into a fight at the mess hall over insults traded with another soldier. Luce explains that at Jaburo, he, Ford and Miyu were all reassigned to different units, but the formation of the 16th Autonomous Corps reunited them on the Thoroughbred. The Zeon fleet takes off from Granada, and Mallet launches in his Act Zaku, followed by Lilia Flaubert, Huyman Carlyle and Gusta Piper in Rick Dom IIs. Miyu reports to Kilstein that the Zeon fleet seems to be heading for A Baoa Qu rather than Solomon. Luce wants to use the mega beam launcher and says that based on the data, it could handle one shot. Luce tells Kilstein that even from this range they could cause significant damage to the enemy, but Miyu thinks it’s too dangerous. Luce and Ford insist on using it, so Kilstein grants permission. The Gundam 4th is equipped with the mega beam launcher, and Luce reminds Ford that he’ll be a sitting duck until the energy charges. Mallet speeds past a Zaku and dodges a Gatling gun barrage from Ford that destroys multiple Zakus. Ford is shocked to see a beam rifle attack coming from a Zaku, and Miyu tells him it’s a new model. Ford moves away and is surprised by how fast the Act Zaku is. Mallet boasts that his unit is magnetically coated, so nothing can touch him. Ford blocks a beam saber attack from Mallet, and the Guncannon team reminds him of what his mission is. Luce targets the Zeon fleet, but the energy is still charging, so he decides to cut power from non-essential systems. Lilia spots Luce and reports to Mallet, and he orders her to take Luce down. Lilia targets Luce with her bazooka, but Ford appears from behind and slices the bazooka in half. With the energy fully charged, Luce fires the mega beam launcher at the Zeon fleet.
Luce manages to destroy a Chibe, but the mega beam launcher’s output drops and the attack ends. Kilstein has the Thoroughbred open fire to cover their retreating mobile suits. Miyu thinks about how the mega beam launcher was supposed to be their trump card, but they weren’t able to use it to its full potential. With their flagship destroyed, the Zeon fleet returns to Granada, and Mallet vows to take down the Gundam 5th. Having revealed itself to the enemy, the 16th Autonomous Corps will no longer be able to hide. After returning to the ship, Ford thinks Luce could use the mega beam launcher if the Zeon return, and Luce answers that they can’t win with an unreliable weapon. Luce and Ford are summoned to the bridge, where Kilstein explains that they have to launch a supply convoy to replenish their dwindling supplies while the Zeon regroup. He says that the Guncannon team will provide escort, while Miyu commands the escort team and convoy. Luce asks how they’re going to get supplies, and Kilstein answers that they have a source. The Cargo Ships take off and head for Von Braun, a neutral city on the opposite side of the Moon from Granada that houses an Anaheim Electronics plant. Miyu tells Ford and Luce that they’ll stay away from military ports to avoid being noticed by Zeon spies. Dressed in civilian clothes, the three head to Anaheim to sign the contract for the supplies. They meet with Anaheim’s top executive, an older woman named Tracy Lamour, who previously served as Luce’s commanding officer. Inside, Ford impatiently asks if the supplies are ready, and Luce explains to Tracy that Ford is his current partner. Tracy sizes up Ford and comments that he’s mischievous, trusts himself too much and thinks he’s incapable of losing. Luce comments that it’s like the good old days, and Tracy explains that Luce used to be like Ford. Luce says that he was excited by the thrill of battle, but Tracy’s constant nagging kept him alive. Although the contract is signed, Tracy cautions them that they still have to get the supplies past the Zeon. Ford vows to handle the Zeon, and Tracy sees he really is like the old Luce. In space, a Musai drops Mallet’s Act Zaku and his Rick Dom team on the lunar surface near Von Braun. Mallet isn’t happy with the mission assigned to him by Nord, since he wanted to give chase to the retreating EFF ships. However, Nord insisted that he investigate mysterious ships docked at Von Braun. Huyman spots the three Cargo Ships taking off and asks if they’re going to inspect them, but Mallet just wants to shoot them. He opens fire, and Miyu orders Luce and Ford to launch in their Gundams. Mallet tells his teammates not to touch Ford’s Gundam 5th because he intends to finish their battle. Ford has trouble adjusting to the lunar gravity, and Mallet opens fire on them. Ford recognizes the Act Zaku and rushes forward to fight it. Mallet dodges a beam rifle attack, and he and Ford each realize their skills are equal. Ford feels the pull of lunar gravity, and Mallet rushes in to attack with a heat hawk. Luce wants to help Ford, but he can’t leave the Cargo Ships alone. Mallet and Ford exchange melee attacks, and each feels that they’re enjoying the battle. Ford thinks back to Tracy telling him he was like the old Luce, who changed after experiencing the deaths of his comrades. The Rick Doms attack the Cargo Ships, so Miyu calls Ford for help. Ford takes off at high speed, and Mallet is annoyed that he ran away after they had so much fun. With Ford rejoining Luce, the Rick Doms retreat and the Cargo Ships return to the fleet.
Tomohiro Chiba and Masato Natsumoto team up for another manga adaptation of One Year War stories featured in PS2 games. In some ways, Space Beyond the Blaze is a follow up to Lost War Chronicles, which introduced the characters of Annie, May and Jake (and also featured brief cameos by Ford and Luce). Like the 13th Autonomous Corps before it, the 16th features a Pegasus assault carrier and a mission of using Gundams to distract the Zeon. As a protagonist, Ford sticks out for being so reckless despite being an enlisted soldier and not an accidental teenage pilot like Amuro Ray. You’d think military service would’ve weeded out that reckless streak, but piloting a Gundam seems to have reinforced his bad habits. Given that this is the middle of a war, Ford is likely to learn a lesson that will humble him. On the Zeon side, Mallet is a pretty one-dimensional character focused only on victory in battle, but we see some more nuance with Nord. Whether or not you’ve played the game this manga is based on, it’s an enjoyable read if you like One Year War side stories.