Disclaimer: I do not own Code Geass or any of its canon characters.

Chapter Updated 2021

Naoto Kouzuki chuckled to himself as his vehicle wound up another rural country bend to find itself turning into a concealed driveway. He was certain that those in the secluded house at the end had the whole path dialed in for all manner of hidden weapons emplacements or ambush positions. Getting shot by mistake was definitely not how he wanted to die. Somewhat ironic, considering his delicate balancing act of living between Britannia and what was left of Japan, but true nonetheless.

He recalled the short meeting he had been called into during the utter madness of the last week. The results were sharp and to the point. Luna vi Britannia, now the actual viceroy, had told him quite bluntly that her original plan for him was about as dead as her predecessor, and that she would need time to get a new one in place.

She was not an infallible being of superhuman intelligence and certainly had no mystical powers of premonition. That, Naoto was certain of, because if either were true then Clovis would not have died. On the other hand, He was one of the few people who knew that the previous viceroy's mystery defender, the so called One Woman Army as she had been dubbed by the internet, was in fact his boss. She had almost managed to save Clovis anyway, even alone and outnumbered a gajillion to one. Anybody that had the will to face those impossible odds was firmly in his 'Do not fuck with under any circumstances' list.

For now, she had tasked him with getting his sister and her friends out of the independent armed resistance business before they all ended up dead. Now that Luna had been forced to take direct control of the situation, all the loose ends were being cleaned up as part of her general consolidation of power in the capital.

She hadn't been joking around about ending the Japanese insurrection in a hurry. The Blood of the Samurai remnants near Tokyo, and a few other small terrorist groups that were specifically excluded from her offer of mercy had been hunted down and exterminated with an efficiency that put the previous administration's efforts to shame. Her death squads only had a price that could be paid for in souls, and they never failed to collect.

Imperial Japanese Army intelligence, Naoto learned quickly, was by far and away better at tracking their own kind than the local Britannian Area Intelligence Service. So much so, that Luna had given him a full briefing package on his sister's group. The level of detail they had on them was enough to make him feel cold inside. Kallen and Ohgi's attempt at hiding in the countryside was laughably ineffective. Naoto realized instantly that he needed to be a good little boy and do what he was told. His new employer may not have shared the racist bias toward the Japanese that Britannian rulers were known for, but her propensity for the destruction of her enemies had not been so reduced. He had a very strong interest in keeping Kallen out of that category.

The car came to a halt as it reached the end of the path. As it did, a knightmare frame, an old model Glasgow, burst up out of a well concealed hole in the ground in front of the house, sending the grass topped wood cover flying off to the side. The 25mm automatic rifle it leveled at his unarmored vehicle said all that was necessary about who owned this property.

The sight injected ice water down his spinal cord. Naoto kept his face straight, despite memories of the invasion trying to force their way back up. The original Glasgow still terrified him more than any other more modern machine. After all, these were the things that tore away the world he knew, what came later was by far less traumatic by comparison.

"Identify yourself." A female voice came through the machine's exterior speakers, sounding filtered and mechanical. That didn't stop him from recognizing it. He smiled, mostly for himself, then replied from the open window. They had probably been tracking him since he turned onto the back road that led here, but likely had no idea who was in the car.

"Hey Kallen! How's that old hunk of scrap running these days? You still force Tamaki to clean the mud out of the landspinners?" The weapon lowered, now aimed at some unfortunate, immobile plant life, but was still ready to snap back up if necessary.

She must have sent a message, as only a few seconds later a half dozen people emerged from the building behind her. The five men and another woman were clearly Japanese armed resistance fighters, but they too had their weapons slung or held in a non threatening way.

Naoto grinned as he recognized three of them in an instant. Ohgi, Inoue, and Nakata, all were original members of the cell. He still vividly remembered the day he had met them all. He and his sister were taking shelter in a dirty room in some unfamiliar building, as everything they had ever known was being devastated around them. He remembered his shaky young hands holding a pistol, and expecting to die when Britannian soldiers burst into the room. But instead of something so dramatic, it was Ohgi that had come through the door, and got his ass handed to him by Kallen who only recognized him after he was on the floor, and on the wrong end of her front sight post.

"Naoto? What the hell are you doing out here? You're supposed to be in Tokyo." His sister's voice came back at him through the Glasgow's external speakers, which made it sound metallic and menacing. Those certainly had not been replaced since the invasion.

"I need to talk to you. All of you. It's a bit urgent." He called back to her knightmare frame. He got out of the car, figuring any chance of being shot by misidentification was now in the past, and started walking toward the house.

"How did you even find us? I never told you where we bolted to after Shinjuku went bad. What if someone followed you?" Kallen asked him as she got out of the ambush pit and approached in a much less threatening manner with an open cockpit. She was probably still covered, since he was pretty certain they still had more than one knightmare frame hidden on the property. The others were now close enough to hear him without yelling.

"The viceroy sent me. She's been keeping an eye on all of us since Shinjuku." He told them. It was enough to freeze them for a moment. "If anyone else happened to follow me up here, well a little bit of HEAT can fix that in a hurry." He stuck a thumb out toward the Glasgow's gun.

Two minutes later, they had all reconveined inside the house with the knowledge that the occasion was more important than a surprise visit from Kallen's little brother. Naoto grabbed a cup of tea, and they continued. The atmosphere was a bit more tense.

"Listen." Ohgi began. "I've known you for a long time, and I know you wouldn't just sell out. Even living between the lines like you do, you're just not one of them." The 'them' being the stereotypical Britannian noble that would supposedly trade the blood of their first born for a decent promotion or a pile of cash. "What are you mixed up in that involves the viceroy?"

"Short answer Oghi, is that Nathan Stadtfeld is now an employee of the Office of the Viceroy. She's my boss." He dropped a pause to let that filter into them. "Longer answer is that the JLF, back when they were still called the JLF, picked me up for a covert operation. Luna vi Britannia, their secret benefactor, was working on a plan to turn Clovis into her little puppet, and they wanted me to help with that. Why me specifically, I have no idea. Whatever her original plan was ended up shot to pieces along with Clovis. So, being available and already read into a lot of secrets, I ended up getting pulled into the transition."

"This sounds like some B grade spy movie shit." Tamaki finally got his two pence in to nobody in particular. Kallen gave him a sharp glance.

"I'll try to save the lecture for later, little brother. Right now, I just need to know what the hell's actually going on. I didn't think we did anything big enough to catch that kind of attention." Kallen asked him, a bit worried.

"Alright, alright. As I'm sure you've all noticed by now, there's a pretty hard crackdown in progress. Luna's not a lazy bum that can be easily bought, unlike Clovis, and she wants the Japanese insurrection to be finished yesterday. The deadline she gave in her announcement speech has passed, and pretty much anyone that didn't surrender by then is as good as dead. She isn't holding back her Japanese troops, and the IJA are scary efficient at tracking down holdouts." Naoto continued.

"No offense, but you don't look like a one man army come to kick our asses for not turning in." Nakata said with a sarcastic level of seriousness. Both men had a little grin.

"Fortunately for all of us, Luna's taken something of a special interest in you guys, Kallen in particular. So much so that everyone here has already been convicted of terrorism offenses in a secret court, received full pardons, and had their records sealed. That's a good thing. Nobody's on the chopping block, there's just one string attached." He told them.

"And what's that?"

"The viceroy insists that you're all out of the armed resistance business. Tamaki started blabbing on in the background as Naoto got that sentence out. "In fact, she wants me to recruit you." The rest of them went silent for a few moments. Them, under the full attention of the ruler of occupied Japan? And she wanted them to join her?

"Naoto, I started this outfit for one reason: to fight for the future that their empire stole from us. Not vengeance, bloodthirst, or some misguided sense of nationalism. I want Japan back. I want to be able to wake up and feel like I'm at home in my own country again. How am I supposed to just give that up? How are we?" Ohgi asked him straight.

"You don't have to. She wants the same thing." Suspicious, unbelieving eyes fell upon him. He knew those stares. He wished that he did not. He could practically see beams coming out of those stares, burning deep gouges into the trust he still had here. He needed to get through to them before it collapsed.

"Do you really believe that a Brit princess wants to bring back Japan? A daughter of the man that raped and beat us half way into our grave?" Nakata asked with an uncharacteristic seriousness.

"Do you think she would have put a knife in their back if she didn't?" Naoto replied. "She was ten years old when the war started. The empire killed her sister, and left her to die on the other side of the world. And what did she do? She got her shit together, and convinced Kyoshiro fucking Tohdoh to help her turn the bloody scraps of the JSDF into a real army again. Now they're the ones on top for better or worse. She's got the colonial government by the balls, and enough force to keep imperial garrisons in check. You want to help her, to side with her, to join her while you can."

"But she's a Br…" Tamaki began

"Listen to me, you dumb little shit." Naoto cut back in, his voice louder, laced with irritation, which masked what he was really feeling. "You don't like it, I know. But tell me then, if not Luna vi Britannia, then who? Who else is going to help Japan get back up? Kusakabe and his barbarians are on life support, Sawasaki is General Cao's bitch, and what little remains of the moderate resistance scattered across the home islands have no hope of forming a unified front, if they weren't all going to be fertilizer by next week.

Even if they did survive and pull together, through whatever miraculous means, they would never even match the Britannians or the IJA, let alone find the strength to surpass them both, and the Chinese, all at the same time. It may not be your perfect idea of Japan, certainly not as it was before the war, but without Luna's help there will never be anything even remotely recognizable as Japan ever again." He took a deep breath as his lecture ended.

The room was quiet. To their credit, they all listened to what he had to say. Even Tamaki, the loud mouthed idiot that he was, managed to sit still through the whole thing without interrupting. They remained silent for over a minute, each going over the options. Naoto took the silence and deep thought as good news.

"Well, Inoue, I guess you were right. The JLF...IJA, really did deliver some divine intervention." Kallen said, breaking the silence.

"We were going to try and join up with them anyway before all of this. Even now that all the cards are on the table, I still think it's a good idea." She replied softly.

"Naoto, you said your princess wanted to recruit us. What for? Because there's no way in hell I'm going to raise a weapon against my own people. Nobody's ever going to convince me that's the right thing to do." Kallen asked him, hesitantly.

It was obvious that she saw this as the only bad decision in a pool of worse decisions. He felt a surge of relief within, although he tried his hardest to not let it show. Kallen's rather strong anti Britannian streak of late was known to him. But this was exactly what he needed; a little sign that she could be persuaded to compromise. She knew, deep down, that not all Britannians were the same. But it was just so much easier not to think about that, and pretend it was not true.

What he, and probably all of them, wanted most was to return to an alternate morning of August 4th, 2010, where the sound of cicadas was never drowned out by Britannian missiles and aircraft, bombs and landspinners. Since that would take some real divine intervention, Naoto believed with conviction that they had to make the best of the situation they had before them.

To him, Luna's vision of Japan as a semi independent satellite of Britannia, with its own government, military, and rights for the people almost on par with Britannian commoners was their one and only chance at preventing the death of their nation. It was better than the pseudo slavery of Area 11, and it was better than fading away as time finished what the invasion started. Now came the hard part, he had to convince his sister of that.

"What about the Blood of the Samurai?" He asked. They were Japanese, and he had no shortage of hatred for them, something that was a common sentiment across racial and class lines in Tokyo.

"They don't count." Kallen replied coldly. "Anyone that thinks children in a waiting room can be a legitimate target is worth killing. If she wants me to go butcher them, if they aren't extinct by the time we get this sorted out, I'd be happy to help."

"If a pocket or two holds out, then maybe. My honest opinion is that you'll have far more Britannians to fight. She's got no shortage of potential enemies, and most of them are across the Pacific." Naoto told her.

"You still haven't answered my question, Naoto. What does she want us for? The viceroy clearly is not short of resources or manpower. What makes us so damn special?" Kallen asked, a hint of annoyance slipping in. Get to the bloody point, it clearly said for her.

"Back in Shinjuku, when you broke out of that encirclement, Jeremiah Gottwald was in one of the Sutherlands you fought. He's pretty much the viceroy's number two within the government now, and they have a very long history. So when he reported how much ass you kicked with an old Glasgow, outnumbered and outgunned, she got interested. She's convinced that you're a natural ace, one of the best knightmare pilots on this side of the world."

"So what, this princess wants a new attack dog? I know I'm good in a Glasgow. If I weren't, we would probably all be dead right now."

"Nope. The point is that she needs somebody thoroughly disconnected from imperial influence. Up until this point you've been a resistance fighter, and anti Britannian enough not to sell out as a hired gun, but not so much as to throw in with Kusakabe's band of crazies. Now, Countess Ashford, one of Luna's best friends, pretty much a sister really, is rebooting her family's old arms business. They need a test pilot for a new seventh gen knightmare frame that isn't in bed with any of their well connected competitors. You're their first pick for the job." He explained.

"...Shit." Kallen muttered, her mind sticking on one crucial detail. "Seventh generation, like that Lancelot unit they're working on?" Kallen asked, suddenly very curious.

"Better in some ways, actually. The chief designer is Rakshata Chawla, pretty much a genius mad scientist and engineer from India. She's the original designer of the Gekkas the IJA uses, as well as some components of the Hiryu, or so I've heard. She's now working with Countess Ashford at her new industrial complex. They have a prototype technology demonstrator, a seventh gen machine called the Guren Nishiki, that is supposed to be able to squash current production models like bugs. At least, if they can find a pilot good enough to make it dance." He told her.

"And you're telling me that they would trust me of all people with this super expensive, one of a kind machine?" She asked, amused at the thought.

"It's not a 'here's the keys, no questions asked' situation, but you're the ideal candidate, Kallen. Luna is certain that you have no secret deals with IAC or CMC, some other competitor, or worse, other royals. Considering her views about Japanese people, I really think you two would get along pretty well." He continued.

"That's tempting, no way I can deny it." She admitted. By this point everyone else in the room had found a seat, and had blended into the background, listening on.

"So...is that a…?"

"Tell me about her." Kallen cut him off. "Working for Britannians would be bad enough, but a princess? As far as I'm concerned the royal family are all a bunch of snakes. What makes this one any different? Give me something real." Kallen asked.

Her brother thought about it for a few seconds, before deciding to take a chance and going with something he wasn't really supposed to know. He knew his sister, and what she truly respected. Most of the usual Britannian titles or claims of prestige or whatnot meant less to Kallen than the air it to took to speak of them. No, she was a warrior, and he knew what to say. He just hoped that this wouldn't come back to bite him in the ass.

"Did you watch the news coverage of Clovis being killed?" He asked her.

"On Hi-TV? Yeah, we all did. Why?" She recalled.

"The woman that made it out of his limo and put Kusakabe's men through the meat grinder until she was overrun was Clare Lautrec. I heard quite a bit about her antics elsewhere, but Luna herself confirmed that Clare was the one with Clovis. At the end, she had VIP access to the palace, and was on retainer as some kind of executive consultant.

Now, I'm not really supposed to know this officially, but Clare Lautrec is the alias Luna vi Britannia was using in exile as a commoner student at my school. I've probably walked right by her a hundred times without having a clue who she really was in the past year or so."

"Holy shit." Nakata blurted out, realizing the implications.

"Yeah. She was outnumbered a few dozen to one, and she still picked up that rifle and made them work for it. She got hit a few times, and almost bled out on the street trying to keep Kusakabe's goons away from Clovis." He told the events as he knew them with second hand information.

"That's...damn." Kallen sputtered at a loss. "That was actually the princess herself in that ambush? Not some operator posing as a body double?"

"It was. I think she killed twenty something of the attackers. Clovis and his royal guardsmen took out about a dozen more before they went down."

"And she really got shot? She wasn't wearing some kind of armor under that suit?" Kallen asked him, still processing the image of an actual princess fighting a gun battle in the street.

It was hard to do. The only imperial princess known to engage directly in combat was Cornelia, and she almost always did so from the relative safety of a knightmare frame. Kallen doubted that even Cornelia had the guts to shoulder a rifle like one of the grunts in front of a wave attack like that.

For a moment, she wondered what she herself would do in that situation. She tried to imagine what it must have felt like to have those fanatics charging at her, with nothing but cloth between her body and their savage fury. It was then that Kallen realized that the fear of being captured by them must have been overwhelming. Even if they didn't know her real identity, being a Britannian woman taken alive by the Blood of the Samurai… She couldn't think of many worse fates. It took some serious guts to fight to the end, and not save a bullet for herself when she knew it had to be hopeless.

"From what I heard, it was at least three hits, and she was almost dead from blood loss when Jeremiah Gottwald got there. That's not exactly official information, so don't repeat it." Naoto warned.

"If even half of what you just said is true, then she's not the typical stuck up Brit bitch." Kallen said with a grin after a few seconds. "Alright, little brother, I'm in."

For Kallen Kouzuki, the last week had gone by in a blur. At least, it certainly felt as if it had. That was how long it had been since her brother showed up at their little country hideout, and managed to convince her, somehow, that joining up with a Britannian princess was a good idea. She still had her reservations about that, but they were fading by the moment as she looked around this amazing building.

Three days after Naoto's visit, she received an official looking offer of employment with Ashford Heavy Industries, and an invitation to their new factory complex just outside of Tokyo. She had already said yes, so there was nothing to be gained by not showing up on time. They even provided the transportation.

Kallen walked beside her escort, almost running into him at times as she took in the sights around her. There were so many knightmare frames and advanced weapons in this warehouse that it felt a bit dreamlike. Especially since they were not trying to kill her. Even more jarring, was how new everything was. This building, as with the adjacent factory complex, was only a couple weeks old and already up and running at thirty percent capacity.

Standing in several neat rows of five, forty brand new Sutherlands awaited customers to purchase them. Most would probably go to the Britannian military, with a few probably finding their way into the various private armed forces of high ranking nobles back in North America. That irritated her, but she decided to let it go for now.

Regardless of where they ended up, Japan had something to gain. In her tour of the main factory at least half of the workers were Japanese. Reliable income from a factory job meant less desperation. Deep down, it was desperation, far more than any flavor of idealism, that drove most down a path of crime, terrorism, or both. Those people in the building behind her wouldn't have to stick a gun in somebody's face to get enough money to feed their children. Not if this held up.

Her tour guide, the Countess Ashford's own secretary no less, explained in detail as they walked that part of the reason Ashford Heavy Industries had been rebooted was to help rebuild the Japanese economy. The logic being that people would much rather prefer to work a good, reasonably well paying job than risk their lives as poorly equipped rebels or terrorists. So far, it seemed to be working, especially with both the local government and IJA on board and supportive.

Rivalz went on to explain that it was the primary reason they had gotten the operation moving so quickly. With full, virtually unconditional support at her disposal, Countess Ashford had jump started her setup by moving a large volume of equipment and personnel down from Hokkaido. The IJA were happy to help, freeing up space at their substantial but cramped bases, most of which were built underground. The people working down there, many of which were Japanese civilians Luna had managed to rescue from pseudo slavery over the course of her gambling career by almost literally buying them from her victims, were happy to come live and work above ground again.

Of course, those were secondary considerations to the fact that Luna also needed a military industrial base that was effectively beyond the political reach of any potential adversaries. It just would not do to have a Japanese army with a supply chain left at the mercy of Britannian business politics. Kallen agreed with that as well. There was no point giving Britannia more power and leverage, when they could develop the capability to manufacture the same or better weapons here in the home islands.

Kallen had paid close attention as she walked through the place, but not so much on the technical aspects of manufacturing weapons. Instead, she had been focused on the men, and a few women, at work in the plant. She had seen enough of her own people; poor, desperate, pseudo slave labor, to know what was really going on.

In the eyes of those she had seen, none of that appeared to be true. Those eyes were bright, not burdened by sleepless nights, sickening stress, or the snare of drug addictions. Instead, the Japanese workers she had seen looked genuinely hopeful.

Sure, it was a Britannian owned arms plant of all things, but every single one of them wanted to be here, and just as importantly, their employer did as well. That told her all she needed to know about what the boy next to her was saying; that he had not lied. A little spark of hopefulness appeared within her as well. It was the start of something fundamentally important; a new population of Japanese workers with the technical skills necessary to build and maintain modern military equipment. They were going to need that eventually.

"And this," Rivalz Cardemonde continued. "Is our primary R&D section."

They had passed through an enclosed connection to another building on the opposite side of the warehouse slash hangar bay slash armory that was the central structure of the complex. Like from where they came, this entrance was wide open. The difference being that this one was also defended by a Gekka and a squad of armed men in IJA uniforms. They recognized Rivalz, and were friendly enough as they let them through the checkpoint after checking ID.

"What's with the guards? I haven't seen any other checkpoints like that inside the perimeter." Kallen asked him a few seconds later.

"The whole complex is owned by Ashford Heavy Industries, but our R&D unit is actually a joint venture with the Imperial Japanese Army. A lot of our science and engineering staff, along with their work, came down from their bases in Hokkaido. We provide resources and assistance, they provide experience and technical skills, and the IJA is going to be one of our biggest customers once we're fully online. It's a winning hand for us both." He explained.

"I can imagine. It'll be nice to see 'Made in Japan' stamped on something of value again." Kallen reminisced.

"That's the plan. Design, production, and final assembly will mostly happen here, with resources and some parts procured from the rest of the empire. There's a lot of politics involved, but I'm not the one to ask. Milly handles all of that." He went on.

By this point, Kallen had come to the realization that not all Britannians were bad people, just most of them. She found that she actually liked Rivalz. Maybe she could get him to slip out a little bit more. It was worth a shot.

"'Milly' hmm? Pretty informal when dealing with a big shot countess." Kallen observed with a grin. Just looking at him, it was so obvious.

"Well, she's..." He stumbled.

"Sleeping with your boss already?" She asked in a low voice. He blushed, the confidence replaced by embarrassment. Jackpot.

"...How can you tell so easily?" He sounded a bit meeker, wondering.

"I haven't caught you glancing at anything below my neck yet. You'd be surprised how much I can deduce from what you're not looking at." She answered knowing that she had a damn good body. The only reason she even mentioned it was out of sheer surprise, since she fully expected him to, and she planned to use that to squeeze a bit more information out of him, perhaps some of the secret variety. As if challenged, he went and did exactly that, getting a very intent eyeful.

"You look pretty good, Kallen." Rivalz said in a fairly neutral tone.

"Not as good as 'Countess Ashford' though, right?" He didn't reply with words, just a smile that obviously meant what she thought it did. He was just being nice by not saying it aloud.

They rounded the next corner, and the pair arrived at their destination. Several covered knightmare frames stood off to one side, expensive looking equipment lined the adjacent and opposite walls, and about a dozen other white coats, and one tall Britannian blonde in a sharp suit, speaking to an also blonde Indian woman twirling a pipe. Kallen noticed where his eyes went now, and her's followed. After staring at the countess herself for a few more seconds, it became completely obvious to Kallen why he was so thoroughly disinterested in her.

"I completely understand now, you lucky boy." She told him in a flat voice after a second of silence, putting a hand on his shoulder. He tried to suppress a laugh.

As if on cue, the two women turned and came over to them. A few minutes of introductions, greetings, and a couple previously unknown funny stories about her brother from his time at Ashford Academy, Kallen ended up with the rest of them, standing before one of the covered knightmare frames docked in the room.

While the machine underneath was out of view, she did notice that the proportions were nothing like a Britannian model. Especially the unconcealable large bulge where the right arm should be. The Indian woman, now known to Kallen as the same Rakshata Chawla her brother spoke of, tapped a screen on her wrist.

The coverings concealing the knightmare frame in front of them disengaged and fell to the ground on command. Now revealed was a sleek killing machine of red, silver, and gold.

"Beautiful, isn't it?"

Kallen stood stiff, virtually tuning out every sense that was not involved in studying the exquisite machine. She did not know which one of them asked if it was beautiful, but Kallen had never agreed with anything so strongly in her life. She only snapped out of it when she realized there was a hand waving in her face.

"Yup, it's love at first sight." Milly Ashford proclaimed as if she had just won a bet. Perhaps she did.

"What do you need me to do?" Kallen asked, trying not to drool at the sight of the seventh generation marvel.

"First dear, let's get you suited up." Rakshata told her. "Then we'll find out if you're good enough for my baby."

Jeremiah Gottwald looked out over the mix of assembled forces that would be under his direct command in the coming operation. Only two hours remained until it was due to begin. Within the vastness of the open space before him stood twenty four Sutherlands, four of the menacing Japanese Type 14 Main Battle Tanks, and nearly a thousand troops.

While this was to be a thoroughly Britannian operation, a component of the newly rebranded Imperial Japanese Army would be taking center stage in the main assault. He looked over at them and their vehicles specifically now, taking the sight in.

Britannian military doctrine had, for a time after the smashing success of the Glasgow in the Second Pacific War, nearly written off the role of traditional heavy assault vehicles, with the active armored units being stuck in a sort of organizational purgatory. The idea was that once enough knightmare frames could be produced, tanks would be phased out of front line service, and eventually discarded all together. The Japanese thought otherwise.

Their new Type 14 tanks, and the original Type 10s that they evolved from, had proven effective against Glasgows and Sutherlands at all but the closest ranges, when combined with novel tactics developed from their experience at Narita. How well they would be suited to the conditions presented to them now was not immediately apparent, but it was what Jeremiah had to work with. Luna and the Japanese high command had insisted that no Gekkas be deployed for this mission. Although, she did have something special in mind for one section of the operation.

Surrounding those four tanks were a hundred troops from the Hiryu, specialist infantry squads armed with weapons that could knock out knightmare frames at close quarters: shoulder fired rockets and 20mm high velocity anti materiel rifles. That in itself was extremely dangerous work, even under the most favorable of circumstances, and those guys down there had actually volunteered to be trained for it. Among the Britannian troops, himself included, it earned some instant respect, if only a little bit since they had yet to see what they could do in combat.

"Margrave Gottwald." A voice came from the side in excellent, if accented english.

"Captain Hidaka." Jeremiah turned to him. Like the soldiers down below, the Japanese officer standing beside him had volunteered for this assignment. As Luna had predicted, there were indeed tensions between his people and the Britannians that outnumbered them nine to one in here, but they all seemed to hold their heads high, and deflect anything negative that came their way. After all, it was the Britannian Viceroy, a princess, that had given them the right to stand here as nothing less than equals. The other Britannians didn't quite know how to respond to that without directly insulting both their commander, and a woman with royal blood in her heart.

"All of our preparations are complete. We are ready to move out on your orders, sir." The captain reported.

"Very good. The diversionary strikes are due to begin in a half hour. We'll lure out two groups of them, then hit them while they're divided." Jeremiah said. "Your tanks will be front and center when we hit their main vehicle yard."

"The commanders of those Type 14s are all men that fought at Narita. When they broke the imperial assault on our base, and drove your warriors back down the mountain, they gave the knightmare frame its first true defeat in battle. Compared to the then 'invincible' imperial army, what are a few units of rogue policemen with substandard weapons? We will devastate them." Hidaka spoke with pride for his men. They were almost certainly among the best tank crews left in the world, and he wanted that world to know it.

Jeremiah could find nothing bad to say. He had seen the Britannian reports, from those very few that survived Narita, and knew the Japanese officer spoke the truth. He had gotten the other side's account of the fight from Luna, which only confirmed it. The Japanese had decisively proven that the knightmare frame was not the wonder weapon it was so too often portrayed to be, as their last stand had become a decisive victory far in excess of their expectations. True, Luna had invented the tactics and given direction, but she had not done the killing herself. Even with her assistance, the result of that day spoke volumes about the competence of the Japanese tankers. They had endured into this new age.

"You make a good point, captain. Now let us make sure this operation goes as planned. Once the shooting starts, I suspect your people and mine will find plenty of common ground." Hidaka grinned at him, saluted, and turned back toward the stairs.

The men and women of the Tokyo Settlement Police Force, Heavy Weapons Service, as the Knightpolice were officially known, did not yet know what to make of Area 11's change of management. Despite all of the media frenzy, and the appearance of that ridiculously huge airship, very little of the craziness following the viceroy's death had affected them directly.

Their main contacts in the government were still around, having somehow managed to escape the wave of audits and purges the new princess had hit the government with after taking over. A lot of people that were important under Clovis, wielding plenty of power and influence, had been quickly rounded up and effectively deported back to the mainland. These people, however, had seemingly caught on quick enough to learn the new game.

Tonight, the feeling of uneasy limbo finally broke. Orders came down from the top, requiring two simultaneous deployments. There was a large gun battle unfolding down near the docks, with the initial assessment being that tensions opposing Britannian and Eleven organized crime elements had boiled over. Over a hundred combatants were fighting for control of a warehouse, although realistically they were probably more interested in the drugs, guns, and cash stored within.

On the other side of the city, two groups of Eleven terrorist holdouts that had refused the new viceroy's offer of mercy, definitely not Blood of the Samurai types, had been exposed by a regular police patrol. Babel Tower had taught them to steer clear of BOTS. They had called in reinforcements, but were still outnumbered by the terrorists.

Ten police knightmares were quickly dispatched to each engagement zone, and calls were put in to have further police forces, including a few SWAT units with their own armored vehicles. Even with change and uncertainty all around them, today at least seemed like just another day at the office, and a welcome return to normality. Sure it wouldn't be as profitable as it had been, but at least they would have a chance to get out and shoot something.

Jeremiah Gottwald held an adrenaline fuelled grin on his face as the timer to operation start ticked under thirty seconds. After his stint as acting viceroy, it felt damn good to be back behind the controls of a knightmare frame, a familiar Sutherland. A Gloucester would have been nicer, but there were none available on this side of the Pacific, save for the few units that Cornelia's troops had delivered for their own exclusive use. A Gekka Sanshiki was also off the table, since their use was excluded from this mission, and more basically, that Jeremiah simply couldn't read the Japanese UI. That left him with what he knew, but he could not complain.

He glanced around the tactical maps as his left side, showing the positions of friendly units. The general strategy was proposed by the viceroy, and refined by himself and a selection of IJA officers. Four diversionary units, each equipped with secondary weapons loaded with non lethal training rounds, were having a bit of fun firing at each other in two locations. In doing so, they did a convincing job of simulating a firefight between regular police and some heavily armed criminal elements. They were the bait, and his forces were the steel jaws.

"All units, commence operation!" Jeremiah called into his mic. A series of affirmative responses came back, from his own troops, and from the two smaller prongs of the strike. On que, the secondary prongs broke off the mock firefights they had been using to draw in the knightpolice rapid reaction squads.

As soon as the order came over the radio, the men at the warehouse district spring into action. With practised efficiency, they dropped their training kit and geared up with their live weapons. Their positions had already been mapped out and assigned an hour before.

A few moments later, the targets came into view. Ten white knightmare frames appeared, and began searching for the targets they were called in to help fight. The ambushers immediately engaged the lead knightpolice units, drawing their attention forward. With mostly small arms fire, the Britannian infantry did little more than to annoy the white frames, but it gave them something to focus on. Those behind them began moving forward, raising riot shields that made the incoming gunfire as effective as raindrops. They surged forward to close the distance to the seemingly defenseless shooters, ten white shield bearers in a loose formation.

Then, everything went to hell in a heartbeat. From elevated positions, the Japanese specialists went to work. Three anti armor rockets came in from an exposed angle, and two scored direct hits. On the left flank, a knightmare frame fell over as its leg was nearly severed by the tandem shaped charge warhead. The pilot managed to light his ejection rockets and escape the doomed machine.

At the same time, before the rockets even impacted, heavy anti materiel rifles boomed from up high as elevated snipers went to work. With the cover of rocket launches and a steady barrage of small arms fire, their own firing positions were concealed from back tracing, at least temporarily. Armor piercing rounds reached out for vulnerable components; factsphere sensors, landspinners, and the guns in their targets' hands. The snipers did not outright destroy any of the enemy machines, but three more were crippled by the attacks. In knightmare combat, mobility kills were just death knocking politely before it kicked the door down.

The charge forward bogged down quickly under the multi directional attack. It was strange, in a satisfying way for the men doing the shooting, to watch their targets behave like a poorly trained squad of five meter tall infantry in an ambush. Their own outgoing fire had intensified, but lacked any semblance of precision as their enemies were well concealed. The enemy knightmares were spraying rounds out as a suppression tactic. Unfortunately for them, they were too busy playing with the bait to mount a proper reaction as the jaws snapped shut on them.

All around them, eight shipping containers in the warehouse's parking lot exploded, but not with fire and supersonic metal fragments. No, it was a more controlled, intentional affair. From within each of them, a Sutherland burst forth and immediately began laying down a withering barrage against the white units with their heavier automatic rifles.

With inferior training, several of their number already disabled, and enemy firing coming from all sides, The white Knightpolice frames were chewed up quickly by the now overwhelming opposing force. A few more of their pilots managed to eject before their units were destroyed, but that would do little to save them. After all, with no backup to retrieve them they had done nothing more than to guarantee their own capture.

At the same time, Captain Hidaka relayed Jeremiah's order to open fire. As he did so, the crews of his four MBTs sprang into action. Their cannons boomed as one, each flinging a high velocity HE round into the primary enemy compound. The first volley blew the main gate open and killed two guards standing near it. With a speed that impressed their Britannian counterparts, the Type 14's improved autoloaders allowed them to repeat the performance a few short seconds later.

To the credit of the Knightpolice within the compound, although they were thoroughly corrupt, they were not completely incompetent. By the third volley, enemy knightmare frames began to appear and return fire in their direction.

Unfortunately for the defenders, their weapons were lighter than military issue, geared toward anti personnel work, or ripping up light vehicles. The IJA armor, even if it were not well positioned behind cover, would have had little trouble bouncing the rounds off of their front plates. The tanks' secondary weapons opened up with the addition of visible targets, and streams of tracers began to fly in both directions. The Japanese tank crews seized the momentum almost immediately, as they lacked any confusion or panic.

Jeremiah Gottwald chose this moment to strike. As the enemy were thoroughly distracted by the tanks, which scored three kills on the fifth volley from their guns, his eighteen Sutherlands began to move. From perpendicular angles, squads of nine knightmare frames each hit opposite sides of the compound. The lead unit in each stack deployed a large breaching panel, made up of dozens of small shaped charges. The walls on either side exploded inward as the devices detonated, spraying the interior with fragmentation.

Jeremiah himself led one of the pincers into the building, immediately beginning to fire at the abundance of targets before him. He closed the distance with an opposing white knightmare, dodged a slash harken launch, and drove his silver lance through the unit's chest. The core and ejection rockets suddenly detonated, ripping his opponent apart, and with all certainty killing its pilot.

Quick reflexes saved him from taking a hit as two more knightmares, these not having had time to procure ranged weapons in their haste to join the defense, rushed him from the left. One launched an attack with its integrated tonfas, while the other attempted to shield bash his Sutherland. Jeremiah repositioned himself to take the shield hit in a way that let him slide along it. With its only defense misplaced, the white frame could do nothing to prevent the Sutherland from delivering a heavy punch to the side of the cockpit block.

As that unit fell away, its pilot stunned or injured by the impact, the second charged, tonfas raised to strike. Gottwald knocked away one with his lance, and launched both of his slash harkens toward the second. To the credit of the knightmare's construction, the impact of the twin slash harken hits did not outright sever the arm, but did break it in two places, rendering it equally useless. He knocked the attacker down, reversed the lance, and drove it down straight through the cockpit.

Jeremiah turned to re engage the shield bearer, but as he did so the enemy knightmare took a high caliber direct hit through the torso. He turned slightly to see one of the Type 14s with a smoking cannon aimed right where it had been, the armor piercing round finding little resistance from light knightmare armor. The tank squad had moved up once the fighting started to turn the pincer attack into a trident.

He sighed as the kill was stolen, or at least that's how he felt about it. Captain Hidaka had certainly not been wrong when he boasted of how his tanks would do against the Glasgows. While Jeremiah had not fought at Narita, he could see a bit more clearly how it must have went. The guns on these tanks were identical to those on the Type 10s that they were derived from. They clearly had no trouble destroying knightmares, provided they could actually hit them. Unlike most of the empire's remaining tank forces, those Japanese crews routinely trained to fight Britannian knightmare frames, and it showed.

He scanned the area for more targets, but found none that were not already being serviced. His troops had made short work of the enemy outside, and now all that was left was waiting for infantry squads to clear the place out. Jeremiah glanced over at his displays, and checked in on the state of the other engagement sites. He liked what he saw, and he was certain that Luna would as well.

On two screens linked to remote cameras watching the dockside area, Kallen watched and readied herself as ten white machines entered the zone, weapons raised and ready. According to the plan, the diversionary teams broke off their mock firefight and began to draw the enemy in.

Bursts of tracer fire, glowing fiercely through the night, reached out toward the approaching units, most of which bounced harmlessly off of their armor and shields. It didn't matter; it got the job done. The enemy broke into three groups and advanced toward what they thought was their primary concern in a loose trident formation.

The predator smiled inside her crimson machine, her heart began to quicken, and the fire inside flared to life. In the moments before the first of her targets got within range, she mentally checked off that her brother had been right again. Despite now working for a Britannian princess, she was indeed going to be fed plenty of her new employer's enemies, many of which were Britannians themselves.

She knew the reputation of the men approaching her position: Corrupt cops, mercenaries, and even death squads for hire. Often at the employ of the savages that got rich destroying her people with Refrain. No matter who she was now working for, they were the enemy, and she would have been glad to exterminate them anyway. She had signed on with the devil, and here came her first payment in souls.

Twenty meters out, and her blood began to boil. Ten meters, and her body tensed, her eyes opened wide. Five meters, and her brain sent the signal to strike. Four meters, and a monster burst forth through the thin siding of a shipping container, reaching out with a vicious metal claw that grabbed onto the cockpit of the closest knightmare. Kallen depressed a red button beneath her right thumb with a wicked grin on her face. A shame that her prey couldn't see it.

A portal straight to hell opened in the claw's grasp, as the Guren Nishiki's nuclear pulse emitter discharged. The intense radiation ionized the air around it, bathing them all in crimson light as superheated plasma washed over her victim. Within a second her victim began to melt as his cockpit block was subjected to heat of over thirty five hundred degrees, more than twice its melting point. The man inside was almost certainly dead before the core luminous ruptured and the ejection rockets suffered uncontrolled cook off, pushing most of the destroyed frame into a nearby shipping container with aimless gouts of flame. It lay there, a metal corpse flailing around as rockets and ammunition ruptured.

The two others stood in shock for all of two seconds, before attempting to engage. Unfortunately for one of them, two seconds was too late. The red monster threw a chunk of their comrade's destroyed unit at one, and lunged for the other. Kallen grabbed the opposing knightmare by the right hand, her claw biting into the metal as she forcefully ripped it off below the elbow, gun and all. A fraction of a second later, it returned, gripping the frame straight in the chest before unleashing another point blank blast of hellfire. This time, the enemy pilot kept screaming over an open channel as the intense radiation cooked his body, until his frame exploded around him. What were mere knights against a dragon?

The third enemy knightmare frame was a bit luckier. The Guren leaped onto it, opting to drive its dagger through the cockpit instead. Unlike his comrades, this man died instantly as the MVS blade came in from above and went straight down through his torso, nearly bisecting him vertically. The unit collapsed, mostly intact, with its pilot's remains dead at the controls.

The seven other knightpolice frames, while they had not exactly seen what happened, knew that something had knocked out three of their own in rapid succession. They certainly heard their comrade's terror laced final screams as he was boiled alive. They were under attack from something far more dangerous than a bunch of men with assault rifles.

Attempting to regroup, the remaining units tried to converge as to not be picked apart as the first squad had. Just as the seven of them reached the same location, they immediately scattered as two chaos mines were launched up from behind another stack of containers. The casings split open and the stacked projectile launchers sprayed the area they had only moments ago been occupying in a lethal cross pattern. One knightmare proved to be just a bit too slow, having a leg be caught in the storm of hot metal. The pilot ejected as his now crippled unit began to topple over.

It was at that moment when death caught up with them. From the right flank, the red knightmare frame emerged from the shadows between two stacks of containers, wrist mounted gun spitting bursts of fire. One of the white frames, facing the wrong direction at that moment, went down as a dozen 30mm HEAT rounds cut it in half at the waist. The remaining units turned to present a united resistance, only to find that they were much too close together.

Kallen charged, raising her claw and unleashing the nuclear pulse emitter. From this range, it was too dispersed to outright kill the targets and melt their frames, but the enormous surge of heat and radiation still did plenty of damage. Sensors overloaded, incoming fire detonated prematurely, and two of the enemy's weapons exploded in their hands as rounds cooked off inside the magazines. The few glancing hits they did score consisted of nothing more than molten globs of metal, which either bounced or splattered off of the Guren's armor after having lost all integrity.

Partially blinded by the radiation weapon, they had no hope of surviving the next minute. As the Guren closed with them, the survivors began to panic. Coordination broke down as the last remnants of morale fled before the oncoming attack. As primal fear took over, it only hastened their fate as the monster's prey.

It was shortly after the last enemy knightmare frame fell that Jeremiah Gottwald had keyed into her channel and ordered Kallen to RTB back to Ashford Heavy Industries. Despite her not being military, especially not Britannian military, he had the final say for all units involved in this operation. This was his show, and her part in it had concluded. She had no issue complying with that order, given that she had already killed everyone on the opposing force.

Unlike the first time that she had climbed behind the controls of this magnificent machine, the thought of just popping the four military Sutherlands escorting her and running off with it did not even once flash through her mind.

These Britannians, her brain having lumped them all together in the bin of those being personally loyal to Luna vi Britannia, weren't so bad. At least that was her conclusion from her experience so far. Much of what made her hate the empire: the arrogance, contempt, and their master race line of crap, seemed to be missing from them. They either respected her, or did such a good job of acting that she could not tell the difference. Even Gottwald, surprisingly enough.

Either way, Kallen was committed, and after the past half hour any lingering thoughts deep inside that she was betraying her people died, along with the men she had delivered her pent up fury upon. They had a hand in doing real harm to her people, and Kallen thoroughly enjoyed killing them.

The trip back went by in a blur, as she went over the fight in her head. Even as successful as she had been, Kallen knew up front that she was nowhere near achieving the potential she could get out of this mount. And it really did feel like a mount, more than any Britannian model did, given that she had been straddling a motorcycle style seat all this time.

That had been another simple, yet radical departure from what she knew, her experience being solely with an old wartime Glasgow before this. The Indian woman had come up with an absolute masterpiece of cockpit design. It was more comfortable, more responsive, and kept her naturally alert.

Also, Kallen would be sure to report, her new pilot suit was another genius bit of design that she absolutely wanted to keep. Skin tight against her body, the suit was made up of a series of layers that sandwiched a thin gel lining that functioned somewhat like a form of composite armor. It was an amazing shock absorber for its size.

Even after rough combat maneuvers on the motorcycle seat, her thighs and pelvis felt a distinct lack of impact soreness, even from kinetic forces that should have left bruises at the very least. She would definitely double check to make sure she wasn't just imagining it once she got the suit off.

Overall, she was thus far very satisfied with the gamble she had made. Her friends were all alive and well, she got to kill bad guys in a sleek new war machine, and nobody had tried to stab her in the back...yet. This had been a good night so far, the best in years. Now, as she moved through the Tokyo sublevels to return her glorious mount to its stables, she hoped it wasn't just a one off. Because Kallen Kouzuki could really get used to this.