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Prelude to Tragedy is the sixteenth episode of Season 2 of Mobile Suit Gundam 00.
After seizing control of the Africa Tower's low orbital station, Hercury addresses the citizens he is holding hostage. He says his only objective is to inform the public about the atrocities committed by A-Laws. He says that A-Laws has massacred millions, including during the reorganization of the Middle East. However, the public was never aware of this because of the Federation's information control. Hercury says he and his soldiers want to correct an army that is going down the wrong path under a corrupt government.
On Earth, the Federation spokeswoman claims that Hercury is demanding the dissolution of the government and the release of 45,000 anti-government activists. She states that the Federation will not give in to terrorists and has dispatched A-Laws to deal with the situation. Sergei turns off the news and wonders what Hercury hopes to accomplish. He recalls a conversation he had years ago with his wife Holly and Hercury, where Hercury stated that solving the energy crisis would lead to wider peace. Sergei and Holly disagreed, but Hercury idealistically believed in his vision. Sergei then gets a call from Kim, who gives him a top secret mission.
Nena Trinity asks Wang Liu Mei why the Innovators are allowing the coup to proceed, and Wang answers that the Innovators have their own motives. Hong Long wonders if the coup will change the world, and Wang says it might be the beginning of the end.
On the Ptolemaios 2, the crew ask Sumeragi what to do. She's surprised that the Innovators could miss the coup since they control Veda, so she concludes they chose to overlook it. Tieria Erde reminds everyone that A-Laws is just a puppet for the Innovators. Sumeragi thinks they have no choice but to head to the Africa Tower, especially if Setsuna hears about the coup.
In space, A-Laws launches an Ahead squad equipped with Automatons containers. The automaton containers land on the low orbital station, and the automatons blast their way inside. The station's automatic defenses destroy some of them, but one hacks into the station's video feed. Hercury is informed that a mobile suit has entered the pillar from Earth, and Hercury recognizes it as Sergei's Tieren All-Region Type.
On Earth, Kim reports to Homer that he's sent Sergei on the secret mission. He asks if he can have the rank of General when he transfers to A-Laws, and Homer agrees. As they terminate communications, Kim comments that the regular army will soon be swallowed up by the A-Laws
Out at sea, Kati Mannequin doesn't understand why she's been ordered to remain on standby. Hiling Care comments to Revive Revival and Divine Nova that they won't get to fight, and Revive wonders what Ribbons is up to. Andrei Smirnov tells Louise Halevy that he knows Hercury because of his longtime friendship with Sergei. He recalls thanking Hercury for putting in a good word with him at the military academy. But he still blamed Sergei and Hercury for Holly's death.
Sergei meets with Hercury and delivers the message that the Federation won't give in, so he suggests surrendering. He adds that with the Federation's information control, Hercury's opinions will never reach the world. Sergei asks him why he's taken 60,000 innocent people hostage, but Hercury says they aren't innocent. The ones who build up wealth and accept the Federation's policies without question are the cause of government corruption and the rise of A-Laws. Sergei counters that a soldier's job is to protect the people, and Hercury says that's what he's doing. He tells Sergei to go back with the message that they won't surrender, but Sergei refuses to leave. Hercury then gets the news that more automatons have invaded the station and are approaching the gravity block. Hercury gives orders for his soldiers to intercept the automatons while the civilians are evacuated to the linear trains. The automatons break through and shoot down both soldiers and civilians alike. Hercury tells Sergei this is an example of how a corrupt government and army acts.
On an airplane, Shirin Bakhtiar reports to Klaus Grad that their forces have joined with the coup soldiers. They're both told by another member that the Federation is about to make an announcement. Sergei realizes that Hercury was going to release the citizens from the start, and Hercury explains that he wants to give them a wake up call. He hopes showing them the truth will build up a wave of resentment against A-Laws. He says he's willing to sacrifice himself to wake up the citizens. The Federation then makes its announcement, showing a falsified video that depicts the coup soldiers killing the civilians, rather than the automatons.
Shirin comments that this is the information control the Federation excels at. Hercury wants to get the citizens to Earth to expose the truth, but Sergei thinks the Federation will catch on; Hercury seriously doubts that they will be able to silence 60,000 witnesses.
On Earth, Setsuna approaches the Africa Tower and is attacked by Graham's Masurao . Setsuna says he doesn't have time to deal with this, so Graham gets his attention by activating the Masurao's Trans-Am. Graham rushes in and attacks, knocking around the 00 Raiser and agitating Setsuna's wound. Setsuna then activates Trans-Am and fights Graham with his swords. Graham says that surpassing a Gundam is his reason for living, but Setsuna says he can live another day. The other three Gundams arrive and open fire on Graham, and he retreats due to low GN particle levels. Setsuna loses control of the 00 Raiser and remembers Neil telling him in his dream to change himself.
Hercury notices that the Federation army isn't surrounding their forces on Earth. Kati and Billy also wonder what's happening. Sumeragi knows something is going on and asks Feldt Grace to calculate the wind speed data for 1,000 km around the Africa Tower. Kati separately crunches the same numbers and realizes that the forces are deployed as if preparing for the elevator to collapse. In space, Goodman declares that Celestial Being, Katharon and the coup forces will be struck down all in one swoop by the second Memento Mori.