Speedy

Kallen Stadtfeld, Knight of Ten

Imperial Capital Pendragon, Aerial Battleship Great Britannia

Half an hour after landing

Hot damn, why did I decide jumping out to grab this chick was such a bright idea? Because her alternative was letting herself be brandished thanks to Arthur's call. Between seizing the element of surprise or getting caught with her pants down, Kallen didn't hesitate to keep her belt on.

"Y'all stay right the fuck where you FUCKING ARE! So much as a sneeze and I'll paint the deck with this princess' brain!" Kallen screamed her bloody intimidation intending to see it through, even if her revenge was bound to leave behind two corpses.

The stiff Marrybell held in front of the cornered knight didn't put up an ample struggle to break free from her elbow choke, whether it was for her lacking physical strength or her mental disbelief was still up for debate, just not one Kallen was interested in having at the moment as she carefully backed both of them away to the tip of the bridge.

Okay… and what's the next step here, genius? This botched escape was already beyond the farthest her creativity had envisioned for a coherent plan. Other than keeping herself alive using the human shield in her tight grasp, she couldn't see an easy way out of her pinch that didn't involve pushing her fortune to its absolute limit.

Not to mention, the Glinda Knights and their superior number weren't meek in the face of confrontation. With the Zevon dame in the lead, none of them were standing down as Kallen had demanded. "You dumb wankers deaf or some shit!? I said BACK OFF!"

"We both know I can't do that, Stadtfeld! You won't be making out of this mess by spilling her blood! Let Marrybell go and we'll solve this like dignified knights!" Oldrin's rifle didn't falter under the threat of an endangered aristocrat, which honestly wasn't close to how Kallen guessed the young lass would behave.

"Fuck off! Don't you traitors speak of dignity! I seek no honour except the satisfaction of revenge! What do I have left to lose, huh!? Might as well go out flushing your coup down the drain!" That was near to the truth Kallen obstinately believed, just not the part about dying herself.

Fortunately, this threat was taken as genuine by Marrybell's crew, the Zevon heir paused her forward momentum and froze herself on the spot. Backpedalling with her hostage in tow until her back hit the forward windshield of the carrier, Kallen distanced a ten-metre gap between herself and the closest Glinda Knight.

"Harm a hair on her head and I'll break every bone in your body, Stadtfeld!"

"Before or after your whore's corpse is cold, bitch!?" Her opponent slightly winced, out of fear or anger didn't matter to Kallen.

"It'll be after I rip out your tongue and feed it to you!"

"-Ozzy, don't be so savage now, it is unbecoming." Cutting through the tension of two women on the brink of violence, Kallen's hostage spoke her first words.

"Marry-! Marry, stay calm! I'll get you outta this, I promise!"

Kallen didn't have an angle on Marrybell's expression, she didn't want to gift her nemesis a free opportunity to utilize her Geass. But the mannerism the princess was behaving in, was somewhat unsettling. "My guitar, somebody check it for me."

Marrybell's peculiar request baffled both sides of the conflict. Kallen did see something falling off the royalty's shoulder the moment she plucked her from where she stood, but to think the girl was almost more concerned over an instrument instead of her wellness was apart from the norm.

This erratic bitch… Then again, Marrybell was indeed full of surprises, if nothing else. Even Kallen had to admit to that point.

Oldrin shook away her confusion caused by Marrybell's wish soon enough. She lightly nodded her head at one of the knights closer to the back, who quickly broke away from the encirclement around the knight and raced to where the guitar was last seen.

"…It's fine, ma'am. No visible damage."

"Examine it more thoroughly, dear." Noises of recurrent riffling ensued.

"I don't see anything wrong with it, ma'am."

"Take it and go somewhere safe." Kallen had allowed all her random whims thus far, but that was too much.

"-Hey, hey! Don't forget the gun in your neck, Your Highness! You're not running this shitshow anymore!" The incensed Round poked her prisoner harshly using the muzzle of her pistol, reminding her of the very veritable threat of a bullet through the temple.

"…Kallen, my dearest. Do you feel in control?" Uncannily, Marrybell challenged.

And Kallen didn't feel in control, even though she dictated Marrybell's survival by a simple pull of the trigger at her whim. The princess still oozed her charisma and dominance, starkly contrasted by the tremor underneath the half-blooded ace's skin.

"I'm not the one on the receiving end of an improvised brain transparent now, am I, you dyke!" Kallen spat out, smacking Marrybell on the back of the skull to drive her point home.

Grimly, Marrybell grunted from the strike but restrained herself from outwardly whining. "Yet I still breathe. Why is that? Why is that, I wonder?"

Inenarrable agitation swelled within Kallen's chest, in the depth where her unvented fury was kept dormant under the chains of sanity. How she desperately wanted to pummel Marrybell's smug face into an unrecognizable pulp of flesh and blood, to unleash her inner madness and massacre the princess she once thought of as a potential family.

Still, Kallen repressed her urges for blood as she tottered herself and Marrybell further away from the Glinda Knights besieging her, almost like she was trying to fade into the layer of plexiglass that was the airship's front window. If she killed the royalty, there was no doubt the Knight of Ten herself would be her escort to hell.

Goddamn it… am I really out of tricks? Ploys and bluffs were never Kallen's strong suit, and she was paying for her inadequacy in wordless panic.

"C'mon, oh summer, what's wrong? Where has your hatred for me gone?" Marrybell taunted, shining a light over the cracks in Kallen's bravery. "C'mon! just fucking do it, pussy! Just shoot me! ~Shoot to thrill~ play to kill! ~Have your guns at the ready and fire at will~!" There it was, more of Marrybell's singing.

"Shut your filthy mouth already!" Again, Kallen limited her impulse to only a thwack using her pistol butt, if only out of self-preservation.

"You see!? Barking at me like a rabid dog doesn't equal a bite now, does it, you rabies-infested bitch!"

Finally, Kallen's blind anger exploded in an unconfined flash of red. "Fuckin- CUNT!"

She reeled back her arm for a devastating clobber at Marrybell's head. However, her indignant fuse was sniffed out by a silenced puff. Something slammed the tip of her raised sidearm with inhuman precision, knocking the unchecked gun clean from Kallen's grip.

Shit. And she realized this had been Marrybell's plan all along, to chafe her until she made a mistake.

And what a mistake it was. Disarmed and distracted, Kallen briefly glanced up at the smoking gun that nailed her weapon. Of course, it could be none other than Oldrin Zevon, Marrybell's number one lackey. The lackey, whose suppressor was meticulously trained in on herself now that she accidentally exposed too much of her body in surprise.

Fuck me… Staring down death in the face, Kallen was wondering when she was going to see her life flash before her eyes.

But the recollection never came. Instead, another crisp gunshot, unsilenced this time rang out abruptly, followed by someone's yelp of anguish and startlement. "-ARGH! I-I'm hit- HIT!"

"-Shooter-! SHOOTER! Five O'clock!"

"Get down! Get down!"

Chaos was always too eager to explode onto the scene, this time being no exception. As the unidentified gunman caught the Glinda Knights by total surprise, Kallen blisteringly dived to her right, away from where Oldrin was centred on and towards where her pistol was landing after being sniped out of her hand.

Please- please- come to me! Kallen prided herself on being an athletic woman, but she also understood there was a limit to how fast the human body could operate. Even so, she believed it was far too early to concede defeat, she still had a chance to survive this encounter.

Barely catching the M17 she daringly lunged for, Kallen flipped onto her back at the first available instant after landing on her stomach. In her hazy sight were two blurry female figures, they were a dazed Marrybell and an Oldrin rushing to her liege. Despite how much she wanted to fill the princess with lead, there was now an obstruction in the shape of a teenage Glinda Knight in her way.

It was brave of Oldrin to act as her princess' shield, that the Knight of Ten could respect. It would've been so easy to point and shoot at the threats from where she was, a few metres away but definitely a few seconds sooner. Yet Oldrin voluntarily threw herself into danger's way, probably not even conscious of how protective she was towards Marrybell.

Regardless, respect for her enemy could never change the flag they served under. So Kallen acted upon the smallest mileage over her deadly adversary, the shortest second it would take to raise her gun and aim before her foe.

Thus she pulled the trigger a fraction ahead of Oldrin, without the slightest hint of hesitation.

It was a clean shot. It was destined to strike home.

The 9mm round soared in the straightest line, covering the mere five or so metres between the two knights under incompatible commands. Oldrin was the only thing in its path of flight and naturally, it brutally collided against her. A nasty hit on the right shoulder, throwing off the aim of the teenage girl whose barrel was pointing back.

Not done with only one trigger pull, Kallen strived to put a few more cartridges on target. Powering through the sheer fever in her system and the unsteady tremor in her arms, she was certain she landed another close grouping of rounds on the torso of the Zevon twin with enough force to staggering the girl out of her crouched stance and onto the floor.

"-OZ!" The princess screamed her protector's name, but nothing was standing in the way of Kallen's vengeance now.

"Just die Marrybell!" In place of the Glinda Knight captain, Kallen answered. Her intent was the farthest thing from goodwill possible.

Put her down. Kallen understood that lonely concept as she lined up the pistol's iron sight with the part of Marrybell's body that would guarantee a kill shot, just in time for the panicking royalty to instinctually turn towards the call of her name.

As their gazes met for what Kallen hoped to be the final time, she let loose a bullet aimed at Marrybell's head with her name on it. Sending with it a glare of untainted hatred and disgust for the treacherous princess, Kallen wanted there to be only regret and fear running across the usurper's mind as she meets her fate.

However, what should by all means be the satisfying and gruesome crunch of a fractured skull was instead replaced by the almost puzzling clank of screeching impact.

Kallen couldn't believe her own eyes, she certainly didn't want to. In her sight was a living breathing princess virtually as baffled as herself. However, what shouldn't be there was a closed fist inserted in the path of her perfect shot, lingering trances of vapour seeping through its gloved fingers.

Holy shit. She caught a bullet. That was the undeniable truth Kallen just witnessed. A miraculous feat.

That's just bullshit! The caramel-haired operative had really, seriously, not as a joke, reached out and snatched a 9mm out of the air.

Oldrin gradually pulled the rest of her body up along her outstretched limb, revealing the spent cartridge in her palm slowly peeling off and dropping on the floor. She too was no less astonished by her stunt than the observers, staring at the centre of her hand for what felt like an eternity.

In reality, the entire event took place over no more than five seconds, but the immense adrenaline pumping through the redhead's blood slowed every tick of the clock to a crawl. That was until time returned to normal as Kallen picked up rapid sprinting drawing closer together with nearing gunfire.

Wait, closer?

"-Tango is on the move!"

"Check fire! She's too close to the HVI!"

All too suddenly, a brute force pulled Kallen to her feet and instantly tackled her out of the Great Britannia's window.

Wait, window?!

Still too suddenly, the yank of gravity applied itself to Kallen without receiving her consent, potently dragging her towards the earth's core until she crashed outside of the airship over the cold pavement of the hangar. At least the massive pane of plexiglass cushioned their fall, the unbroken sheet of glass acted as their landing pad.

"-On your feet." Not only was she reckless, whoever threw the both of them out of the airship was also very commanding, albeit in a pacific tone. "We're leaving."

"Wha-the-! What the hell!? Moe- Monica-!? Monica!? The fuck happened back there!?" Not lending Kallen the second to collect herself, the Knight of Twelve yanked her along as they took off sprinting away at top speed following the blonde's orchestrated route.

"-Got visual! They're making a run for it! Going out the hangar's secondary exit!"

"Ransom! With me, with me! Don't let 'em get away! Oxide! Take your team around the side! Cut 'em off!" Being no slackers themselves, the Glinda Knight foot-mobiles were in hot pursuit. And just like hot pursuits in real life, it was the many cops who chased the fewer criminals.

"Weapons free! Blast 'em, blast 'em!" Really though, the Glinda Knights might be a bit too much like the police, given how trigger-happy they were in their endeavour to bring the fugitive loyalists down.

"Faster, Stadtfeld." Not in the least laboured, Monica advised.

"Oh-! I am going pretty fast! Moe! PRETTY FAST!" To go for the hundred-metre sprint record twice in one day, now that was dedication to the sport on Kallen's part.

Run, run, run! Gotta go fast, but seriously!

Thankfully, her gruelling practice and unswerving devotion to breaking the sound barrier on foot had somehow elongated the distance between them and the insurgents on their trail. Exempting the disadvantage of the heavier gear worn by the Glinda Knights, Kallen decided to pat herself on the back for her superior speed as the pair outran their hunters after dashing through several narrow hallways and climbing several winding staircases.

Finally, when the ghostly reverberation of hasty stomping stopped the moment the duo crashed in exhaustion as their stamina was utterly drained, they knew that was the signal telling them the Glinda Knights had been left in the dust.

"Arghaa… haah… haah… Haaah…!" Greedily gasping for the air her lungs had been deprived of for far too long, Kallen's clogged panting couldn't be paused for her to squawk out a lucid sentence until a dozen seconds later.

In the case of her temporary partner, Monica was experiencing an outlandish lack of exhaustion for having just sprinted non-stop for ten minutes straight. How in the world this slender girl was capable of such a feat, Kallen couldn't decipher for the life of her as she squatted down with her hands on her knees.

What is she? A… a… thing that runs fast and doesn't get tired? Lacking sufficient oxygen flow upstairs to appropriately brainstorm a clever reference, Kallen discarded her jumbled mess of thought process before sucking up the delicious air she never knew tasted so refreshing.

"Okay…! Haaa-! Breathing… good!" Kallen pounded her chest brashly, proving to herself she had completely recovered from the extreme exercise. Next, she turned her focus to the unemotive Knight of Rounds, still unfazed by their previous deadly encounter and backbreaking workout.

"Moe, you doing alright?" Monica was a bit too detached to be considered her normal cheery self, and that was the catalyst of apprehension in Kallen. "Monica? Monica? Whatcha got going on in there, girl?"

Still, the Knight of Twelve provided no satisfactory reply, her only reaction was to keep her gaze fixed on the blank cement wall directly in front of her even as Kallen moseyed on to take centre stage in her line of sight. This… could be a thing that is… complicated.

Kallen had seen this type of behaviour a few times before, more so if she dug deeper within her memories. This was someone under the influence of Geass, without a shadow of a doubt. But there's no reason for Marrybell to have her bail me… then it really could be…!

Just when Kallen contained her excitement at grasping the revelation, the clout over Monica's mind chose to enact its dissipation at that exact moment, judging by the abrupt revival of senses to Monica's eyes.

And Monica chose for her first action as a freed woman was to instantly collapse into a puddle on the floor.

"-Woah! Moe! Tease it!" She would've been successful too, were it not for Kallen catching the blonde at the last second, saving her an embarrassing faceplant and a bloody nose.

"Kar-? Kallen? Is that… what happened to your…?" Still hazy, Monica gestured at the mummified appearance of the redhead that she had honestly gotten too comfortable with.

"This? I'm just preparing for Halloween." Kallen joked at her own expense, coping in ways she hoped would work. "Anyway, what's up with you? What's going on?" She helped Monica back onto her feet, lending her a shoulder to lean on until she regained a steady footing.

"God I- haaaaah-! Why- why am I so tired?" Monica clasped at her chest as she forced out an inquiry, mirroring Kallen's dire respiration a dozen seconds back.

"You been working out."

"Why… why am I also so hungry?"

"You on a diet?" A relieved Kallen was now able to mess with her friend a little. The prankful replies were her method of easing Monica back to her regular unruffled self.

"Seriously, what's going on here? We're back home already? The last thing I remember was being on the bridge… and errm…" Monica took a brief break to peer into her hazy recollection of elapsed events. "-Just being really hungry, I guess? But still aboard the ship."

"…Is that right?"

"And His Majesty was there… he- ehmm… he had a pink eye? He said… a whole bunch of things, I think. But… I can't remember anything, it's gone…"

Huh, how about that. Normally they don't even remember the first part.

"That's close enough." Kallen couldn't stop smiling, and not just because someone mistook Lelouch's Geass for conjunctivitis. "And by the way, he has more of a red eye. You'll know when you see it."

Yes! He's still around, there's never a doubt! I just need to find him and turn this fight back on Marrybell's head! That was the rest of Kallen's workday scheduled, albeit it was a group project she aimed to tackle and for that purpose, she needed a team that was prepared to throw down.

"J-just give me a sec here! What exactly is happening? The Glinda Knights attacked us, right? Ar-are we at war now?"

"Something like that. That whore princess Marrybell betrayed us, got us in quite a pickle, but we're gonna get her back for it." Newborn motivation to deliver her nemesis her well-deserved downfall fuelled Kallen's eagerness to act and the smirk on her lips. "C'mon, you're with me, Moe. Let's go wreck shit."

"So we actually are under attack… they've brought the fight here…" Monica's sad shoulders drooped, the severity of her strain growing apparent in her dejected mannerism. The Knight of Twelve wasn't the craziest about jumping headfirst into the fire of warfare, was it due to cowardice or kindness, Kallen couldn't infer.

"Hey, hey. We're defending our homes today, protecting your tomorrow of lazing around all day. You've surfed the net long enough on Lelouch's dime. It's time to show some guts and put in some work, yeah?"

"Well, if you put it that way…" Monica ran her delicate fingers through her silky hair, tying her free-flowing locks into a single long ponytail at the back of her nape. "I suppose I could clock in for a few hours for the paycheck."

Monica tugged at the collar of her cape until she loosened the knot. Tossing her stylish yet impractical uniform aside, the blonde Devicer seemed to have gotten a grip on her diligence to fulfill her duty.

"Let's hit the road, you fucking leecher." Kallen vibrantly patted her co-worker on the back, netting a reluctant thumbs up from the unenthusiastic knight.

"Springfield 1-0, moving out if I must." Finally, drive from Monica. "But really, can I please, please get some food first?" Drive to eat.

Oldrin Zevon, Glinda Knight Vice-Commander

Imperial Capital Pendragon, Aerial Battleship Great Britannia

"Okay, try blinking now. How does it feel?"

"Feels like I just took an eyedrop of bleach, that's how it feels."

"You'll need this to work that arm… sorry for the hassle, Oz."

"Better than giving Lyre an eye as well, I'll learn and adapt. Also, no more 'Oz' for you, Marrybell reserved that. It's 'Ozzy' now, Ironhide."

"Right, my bad."

"Tink… cut it out, don't look at me like that. I don't want none of your pity."

"…We'll handle it your way."

"We shall. Now let's finish tuning this thing, I have better places to be than bumming around your workshop."

"Okay. What do you see? Your HUD should be up, are your lens and your arm in sync?"

"Seeing a delay of… 0.2 sec… no, it's synced up nicely. Perfectly, in fact."

"Very good, we'll run you through some basic tests. Your contact lens and that arm should enable you to do some pretty nutty stuff."

"That's the way I like it. By the way, what's your record of the heaviest load lifted with your cybernetic?"

"I'm not sure, around four thousand kilos, I think. It was half a Knightmare wreck."

"And your fastest reaction time?"

"My eyes aren't augmented for neural signalling, I'm still a human in that sense."

"Guess I got you beat in that area, eh? We're like cyborg siblings now, I know your mind and your kind."

"It's certainly a lifestyle shift, Oldrin. I'll be here to help you anywhere you need it."

"Appreciate that, big guy. With this arm, I'll show you guys how my new fire sparks."

— —

The fastest human reaction time was clocked anywhere between two to four hundred milliseconds in optimal conditions, nothing could bypass the necessity of the signal travelling through the nerves to reach the brain. Nothing organic, anyway.

Oldrin felt her pounding heart hammering relentlessly against her ribcage, only calming to a gradual resting rate of eighty-ish once she fully processed the lack of a lethal threat in her presence after the last one bailed out the window. She brought her left hand up to her sticky forehead and wiped away the downpour of sweat glued to her frown, the sensation of the cold metal underneath her torn glove didn't elude her.

Am I invincible? Oldrin studied the single bullet hole in her Nomex glove as she pondered a ludicrous notion. Of course, she was still susceptible to every cause of death under the sun, but it was the bewildered wonderment at her own miraculous feat that fuelled her ego and pride.

If she ever comes into another situation where somebody shot at her with a pistol, then the chance of her catching a 9mm projectile speeding towards her at a velocity of three-fifty metres per second was no longer a fat zero. Her cybernetic arm and its complementary contact lens enhanced her combat efficiency to a degree the young girl almost couldn't fathom.

"…Mind quit dozing about and help me up instead, my pretty?" Marrybell shattered Oldrin's blissed amazement with an order for assistance, one that she wasn't all too happy to comply with after snapping herself awake.

"You kidding me? I got shot like- at least more than once, all for you." The young warfighter groaned, the impact of a dulled strike on her vest was still felt very vividly.

"And?"

"… 'And?' And I think you should get off your ass on your own instead!"

"I refuse. I demand your hand, Oz."

"…" At an impasse, Oldrin was weaker on the resolve to uphold her laziness compared to her master. Reluctant to return to active duty so soon after recovering from multiple gunshots, the young protector nonetheless found the strength to stand upright at her liege's behest.

"Fine, you absolute fatty. Now up you go." Lending Marrybell her organic hand to hoist her up onto her feet, Oldrin flexed her muscles in a set of routine stretches to keep them elastic, the muscles she still had, anyway. "Hold on, let me just check you over for anything."

"I am just dandy, Oz. Nothing's hurt except my pride." Marrybell brushed off her devoted knight's venture to review her liege's wellbeing with reassurance. Oldrin knew the princess too well to second-guess her affirmation, Marrybell was too professional to refuse aid when earnestly in need.

"Good thing your pride knows how to take a hit, or a dozen." To Oldrin's playful jeer, Marrybell only snorted.

"Wouldn't be so hurt had you just dropped Kallen."

"I'm sorry, did I not 'Shoot to Thrill' as requested by your rendition of AC/DC's song of the same name?"

"You had your thrill at my dreadful expense, dear. Just had to show off your inner-Neo, huh?" Marrybell didn't word her accusation in a condemning tone, so Oldrin paid it the amount of respect she thought it deserved.

"Right. I beg Her Highness' forgiveness for staking my life on the line for her protection, if only I had chosen to risk it for the opportunity to slay a knight-errant."

"At least we're in agreement." Marrybell culminated her short sentence in a tired note, rubbing her face with her palm as she sidestepped to the side of Oldrin that housed her artificial limb. "And… thank you, Oz. This wasn't my first close call with death, and it won't be my last, all thanks to you."

"Reluctant to serve, still I remain." Sarcastically requiting her princess' trust, Oldrin didn't flinch when Marrybell carefully caressed the chilly metallic bicep concealed under her flight suit's sleeve.

Briefly, the two troubled lovers shared a moment of brooding tension where they connected their shining gazes. Oldrin wasn't certain what it was that went unsaid between them, it could either be the painful cries of grievance or the sweet whispers of affection.

So many fishes in the ocean, yet I just had to be hooked by another fisherman. Love was confusing as much as it was fulfilling, and Oldrin didn't learn the right formula to balance that equation.

Breaking off her stare just as fleetingly, Marrybell reverted back to the Glinda Knights' grand commander by the time she walked away from Oldrin to check on the rest of her troops.

"-OOOOOWWWW! You're bleeding me like a late-term abortion! You sure you're Butterfinger's medic!? I'll have you fucking demoted to janitorial, bitch!" It just so happens that the rest of her troops included someone screaming bloody murder.

On that note, Oldrin was fairly sure someone was shot during the previous commotion. But since the shriek of agony was too similar to Sokkia's, the XO didn't bother to spare some of her overflowing compassion for this particular stricken soldier as a combat medic patched up her injured shoulder.

"Jesus, shut up already, 3-1. Imagining pricking your finger and crying like a baby. That's you, by the way."

"Sokkia, precious, how's the wound?" Unlike the XO whose ironic insouciance was the motivator for Sokkia to recuperate without a hassle, Marrybell displayed genuine concern for those hurt in their line of duty for her sake.

The hallmark of a benevolent leader was their benevolence towards those serving below them, and Marrybell had that aspect nailed. "Just dandy, Your Highness! Krushevsky can't aim for shit. It's a through-and-through just under my shoulder, be back online in no time."

Unlike her aggressive complaint not even a minute ago, Sokkia unpretentiously humbled herself before Marrybell's warm commiseration. The princess smiled tenderly, blushing the hyper CDO's cheeks in a paint of red as she was graced by a soothing pat on the forehead courtesy of the young royalty.

"Be sure to rest up plenty now, darling. I still need you by my side."

"Of course! Something like this won't keep me down." Sokkia optimistically promised, a bright and silly smile over her lips.

Acknowledging her courage by mirroring her energetic beam, Marrybell didn't impede Fireteam Butterfinger from escorting the wounded Sokkia away until she caught the doctor who provided the first-aid. "How long you suppose until she's back, Eisen?"

"We'll squeeze some paste in her wound, clean it up a notch and keep out any infection. Takes about a week to fully heal, but Crasher can be back at it in three hours, let's say." The Butterfinger medic briefed Marrybell with the good news of a swift recovery, procuring for herself a kind nod and the permission to depart with her patient.

"Sokkia's a nutjob, and just as tough. She won't even remember taking a bullet in a month." Oldrin reiterated Sokkia's sturdiness for Marrybell's solace, knowing the young girl won't be put out of the fight this easily. Despite all their jests and jabs, the vice-commander firmly believed both of them won't hesitate for a second to put their lives on the line for each other, or anyone else flying the Glinda Knights' flag.

"But she shouldn't have taken that bullet, nobody should. I was careless with Krushevsky… ejecting that windshield for an escape was a smart move. I didn't think Lelouch would leave an asset like her around as an ambush! Why am I always so…! Bugger!" Exasperatingly, Marrybell cursed her imperfect clairvoyance.

However, her self-criticism couldn't be so easily refuted. Like the canopy on a fighter or the cockpit of a Knightmare, the windshield of airships was designed to be detachable for a convenient escape. And ironically that was exactly what the Rounds used it for.

Perhaps Marrybell had grown arrogant in the company of her ungodly power, and Sokkia paid that price.

"It's alright, it's all good, Marry. His petty tricks can't beat your sound tactics. We got him on the backfoot this whole time, his rope is gonna end somewhere. He's good, for sure, but no one is good enough to stop us when we're together." Oldrin pacified Marrybell's frustration, inspiring her to overcome her failures and seize her advantage.

"Yeah, I'll… -you go do your round. I need to think." The princess tangled a messy bundle of orange locks into a whirlpool of her finger, seemingly having taken Oldrin's advice to heart but was still haunted by her blunders.

"…Is it because Krushevsky's expandable…? But then… no, wait, was Kallen also supposed to…? Was it a setup? But the football is empty with Krushevsky… He Geassed her to do what…? And when? Before or after my Geass…?" Like that, Marrybell detached herself from the conversation with Oldrin and retired within her mind of deduction and strategy.

Oldrin didn't really understand too much of the higher-minded games Marrybell played against her older brother, all that she garnered for sure was the seemingly empty seat of the commander opposing the Glinda Knights on the board had indeed been filled this whole time. Lelouch proved himself to be the toughest opponent Marrybell had ever faced. Fittingly so, as he was the man standing at the top of the world.

Unfortunately, there was nothing Oldrin could do to help Marrybell's calculation, so she excused herself while her princess was playing the thoughtful recluse in a mental struggle to outwit the emperor.

"…Here, kitty, kitty." Oldrin purred at her new companion that happened to saunter by her legs, the anonymous stray that bypassed all of Glinda Knights' perimeters.

"…Meow?"

"Did you try to warn us about Stadtfeld, nameless one?"

"Meow."

"Thank you. You sure did your best, maybe we'll make you an honorary Glinda knight after this is over." There was a chance the current owner of this feline was still lurking somewhere, but Oldrin couldn't be bothered to entertain that theory.

The caramel-blonde picked up the dark-furred cat, gently stroking its back as she let the soothing sensation wash over her mind.

No need for a previous owner… no need for the past now. The way she was going forward, she only looked ahead.

After the mental break, Oldrin wilfully maneuvered herself next to her brother who had remained aloof as his usual self. Her relationship with her long-lost twin was a tough cookie to chew, if she was to be totally honest to herself. However, for now, they were both soldiers amidst a battle, and soldiers always leave the baggage of family back at home.

"2-2, check-in. Any update on the targets?" Still addressing him using the callsigns, Oldrin unconsciously realized.

"Nothing good. Fireteam Goldfish is in pursuit, but the Rounds know the layout around this place. They'll probably give 'em the slip soon enough." Her brother reported unceremoniously, not that there was any cause for celebration.

Orpheus also noticed the tiny pet caressed in Oldrin's arm, but both of them agreed to only acknowledge it with a glance.

"We should get additional teams on-site, double the security around the hangar area."

"Already done. Stadtfeld has no reason to come back around, but if she does, she'll wish she hasn't."

Oldrin couldn't express her honest feelings for her brother, the barrier that hampered their communication was daunting to overcome. The toil time had done on the siblings who never knew of each other's existence until recently couldn't be so simply mended by a common goal. Still, she sincerely appreciated Orpheus' effectiveness when it came to his job. He was a flawed and lacking person forged by the tragic past he was forced to endure, but when it came to being a soldier, he was second to none.

"Excellent, that's… great job."

"Yeah… thanks." And either spoke for a good minute.

Well… awkward it is.

"I… I was… when Monica- I mean, Krushevsky… she…" Finally, Orpheus broke the silence in a whisper, the flustered cheeks and gauche speech revealed his reluctance to share something close to the heart. "When Krushevsky pulled a gun on Sokkia, I could've stopped her, just shot her dead on the spot. I… I could have."

"You didn't." Oldrin repeated the fact, Insinuating nothing except empathy in her tone.

"I did not. Because Monica and I had a history, we used to… well, you know what I mean?"

There was only one thing that could get a man to be this mellow, something that Oldrin too experienced in her aimless search for love. "Yeah, I get you."

Orpheus nodded, perhaps thankful to his sister for sparing him of the explanation. "I had an old life… that was alright… that was taken from me by our uncle. He had his reasons for doing what he's done, it's- I don't know what to think of it, I suppose it doesn't matter. But Monica… was someone new for me, she helped me move on from that. Things didn't work out between us in the end, but for what she's done for me… I'm grateful."

"Hey, hey, I get it. I really do. You don't have to explain it to me." And he really didn't. Oldrin sympathized all too well with this feeling of solitude, the struggle to leave behind a life that was all she knew for something entirely new.

"I couldn't let it go, the past. Who am I without it? I cannot tell. Were we wrong to believe in the things we used to? Where're we going at the end of this bloody brick road?"

"…I don't know." What else was there for Oldrin to say from one kindred spirit to another.

I abandoned Marrybell for the resistance… and he, the resistance pilot, filled my shoe… Oldrin tried to laugh at the irony, but she choked on the throbbing pain in her chest. Don't forgive me, Marirrosa. Curse me and send me down to hell, where you aren't.

"It's complicated… our past. But… I'm glad we can be here, together." His words, his sentiments, Oldrin resonated with them. "We've killed a lotta people to get to where we are, we can't stop now. Let's complete this operation, then we'll see where the road leads."

"Is there anywhere you want to go in particular?" Oldrin prodded her brother for a potential future, maybe it would be one Orpheus wouldn't mind spending with her as a family.

"I… I got no idea. I guess that's also complicated."

"You're not the one to go to for clean-cut answers, are you?"

"Clean-cut? What're you talking about? I'm all for clean-cuts." Briefly, Oldrin was candidly stumped by the implication of Orpheus' sudden change in attitude. That was until she realized the thin smirk he slyly hid behind his visor. His allusion was fully cleared up once he deviously eyed the XO's cybernetic arm.

"Screw you, dickhead!"

"That was surgical! I'm still kinda proud of it, in a- a morbidly horrifyingly and unhinged sorta way. I mean- w-who knew MVS knives have an incision angle that sharp. You didn't even lose much blood, the heat cauterized your wound immediately." Her brother described, docilely forcing an aura of superiority as he struggled to uphold the façade of arrogance.

Oldrin still couldn't decide whether to be sickened by the abhorrent retelling of Orpheus' final victory over her or be placated by his willingness to joke around it. He never personally apologized to her for the deed, but Marrybell told tales of endless nights he spent crying into the princess' embrace for amputating his closest family, even if it was in the heat of the battle.

Nothing helps me get over it like being laughed at by the asshole who took my arm. That was what Oldrin convinced herself to think, never mind how unhealthy it could prove to be.

"You owe me an arm, pal."

"Sorry, your insurance should've covered that."

Then Oldrin punched her twin brother smack dab on the nose. Not so hard to break bones or rupture veins, although definitely hard enough for him to remember the initiatory experience of his sister walloping him.

All while carefully keeping the adorable cat in the safety of her bosom, of course.

— —

Author's note

Short chapter, actually not that short, but it feels like nothing happened. I think I'll upload the next chapter sooner than normal, but it's literally unlikely.

Canonically, we don't know what happens when someone is Geassed with conflicting orders. It never occurred anywhere as far as I know, make sure to tell me if there's an answer on this somewhere.

I hope Oldrin's backstory alluded to in this chapter and the previous ones are enough to paint a picture of roughly what's changed between my take and canon. I referenced Marirrosa who is a character leading the resistance movement in Spain that Oldrin joins, but the past doesn't really matter that much. I think the Oz characters are established good enough to focus on the future.

Not much else going on, really. I'm still just casually working on this when I'm in the mood for it. Hopefully nobody is dying for an update, that won't be a fun time. I know I kinda said I'll try to reply to reviews, but that didn't end up too well. Sorry if you were waiting for one, I guess. Sometimes I'm just too lazy to think of a reply, but if you wanna contact me about anything, PM should work, probably.

Anyway, no pressure to review or anything like that. I just hope my story is entertaining somewhat, bye now.