Chapter 21

Disclaimer: I don't own CG


"I'm afraid we have confirmation. Colonel Tohdoh was captured by the Britannian military." Senba stated after he finished reading a letter from Kyoto that had been left in one of the special mailboxes the JLF had set up.

"SHIT!" Urabe punched the wall of the small cellar they were hiding in. Chiba bit her lip, while Asahina simply stared.

Senba sighed. "It gets worse. Apparently the Britannians have decided to execute him."

Now Asahina jumped up. "We have to save him!"

Now Urabe laughed bitterly. "And how do you suppose we do that? We are four hardly armed infantrymen, and woman, against the might of the Britannian military. We don't even have a single Knightmare! If we try to save the Colonel, we will die, simple as that."

"So what do you suggest? That we just abandon him?" Asahina barked.

Urabe was about to give a not very polite answer, when Chiba interrupted. "Was there anything else in that letter? Anything that may help us?"

Senba shrugged. "Not much. Kyoto advises us to contact the Black Knights."

Asahina snorted. "What? Those Robin Hood wannabees?"

Urabe grew thoughtful. "Well, they did try to aid the general, supplying them with not only information and weaponry, but Knightmares. And since we're on the topic of Knightmares, since we don't really have any stable base, they can't send us any support that has a chance of reaching us, so the Black Knights are really the only ones that could lend us some Frames."

Silence reigned after that. It was true. Kyoto was currently strained as it was, having to keep attention off of them, and while many resistance-cells would have happily offered their help to save Kyoshiro Tohdoh, but with the white Knightmare and that new golden one that was systematically crushing resistance after resistance to stop them, and at least one of them would be there for sure, none of them had the firepower to actually succeed. None, but the Black Knights. And rescuing Tohdoh had to be done. Not only was he their colonel and a man they looked up to, he was a beacon of hope for the Japanese, a symbol that Britannia was not invincible. To lose him in the current state of affairs would be crushing.

So they really had no other choice. A weary sigh escaped Urabe's lips. "Did Kyoto tell us how to contact them?"

-0-

Lelouch leaned back in his room. Another day of school over, for a change, no operation was planned for the night, the only thing disrupting his peace was V.V.'s frowning face. "And what rained on your parade?"

V.V. looked up. "Nothing really. But a part of the message Kyoto sent us doesn't sit right with me."

Lelouch raised a brow. He had read it himself, and it seemed to be mainly positive. "So what's the problem?"

The young immortal looked at him, his finger tapping on the desk. "They wrote that they're trying to build another Raikou, and give it to us."

Lelouch blinked. "And? That's not a bad thing."

V.V. rolled his eyes. "No. a weapon is never a bad thing. But the Raikou is a waste of materials. The entire design should be scrapped. It is built on completely wrong principles."

"So what did the JLF do wrong with it that upset you so?" Lelouch asked, now getting interested. V.V. didn't give wrong criticism.

"Nothing." V.V. replied. "What the JLF did was a completely correct usage of a flawed weapon. You see, the idea of a mobile railgun is brilliant, but the Raikou was just not properly thought through. For one, the barrel doesn't allow solid ammunition, it's not designed to fire anything but those pebble-holders. It is essentially a giant shotgun. You've ruined the entire idea of the railgun by using shrapnel ammo. There is little point in a rail-shotgun. A railgun's good point is that it allows the bullet to fly with higher speeds and much further than any conventional weapon. But with a shotgun, the shot goes wild."

Lelouch nodded. "You're saying that the Raikou is the attempt of using a shotgun for sniping. I see the problem. Beyond a certain range, whether or not the shot hits is a matter of luck. Also, the energy each fragment holds is less than what a solid bullet would do, ergo, it doesn't fly as far."

V.V. nodded. "Right. The fact that the Raikou's bullet starts solid, before releasing the shrapnel does reduce the straying, but if there was no force outwards, they'd just fly as a cluster, so range and accuracy suffer. Also, the question of mobility is another issue. It's just strapped on four Knightmares. While that does give it some mobility, it still takes forever to turn. A shotgun requires at least some closeness to the enemy. While it was a great weapon for Kawaguchi, seeing that they placed it in a tunnel where there was simply no room for the enemy to dodge and get around it where it's helpless, the chance that we will fight in long straight tunnels is rather small. Also, its legs are fragile and the very construction makes it unstable. It could explode with as little as knocking it over. Not to mention that the pilots are trapped like rats, as there is no emergency-exit of any kind."

Lelouch nodded. A weapon that would explode and kill its operators if someone toppled it was not a good weapon. "So if you could redesign it, what would you do?"

V.V.'s eyes sparkled, he loved challenges like this. "Let's see. First, I would alter the barrel so that it can handle both solid- and shrapnel-ammunition, the latter being used in tunnel-fights or if a larger numbers of enemies got close. Then instead of Knightmares, I would place that barrel on a more solid platform. Essentially, my Raikou would be more of a tank than a Knightmare. The machine would be smaller without the vulnerable legs, making it easier to hide, and the barrel should be able to turn and with the move aid of hydraulics, allowing it to actually aim at something instead of firing and hoping for the best, and shoot while moving. It should have other weaponry to defend itself when an enemy got too close or came from the wrong side to be shot with the main-barrel. A generous number of Slash Harkens, both for defense and as an aid to reach higher elevation would be a must. Since the classic tank-chains wouldn't be very maneuverable, I would rather use something based on Landspinners, although some chains as backup in case the area doesn't allow normal movement, like in mud or snow. If I can reconstruct my electromagnetical armoring... or perhaps I can at least get that RWS-based shielding to work..."

Lelouch raised a brow. "Color me impressed. You really have thought this through. Maybe you can start on some schematics and send that to Kyoto? Rakshata should arrive sometime tomorrow, perhaps you two can work out this Raikou-tank idea? You already have three notebooks full of stuff you want to share, just add the advanced tank to the list."

V.V. nodded enthusiastically, giddy at the prospect of conversing with one of the few souls on the planet that could keep up with him when he got into the juicy technical details. At that moment, anyone would have mistaken him for a normal, happy child, practically bouncing away to start calculations, sketches and whatever else his mind produced right now.

Except for Lelouch, who couldn't help but shudder as he wondered what monstrosities V.V. and the inventor of the Radiant Wave Surger, or how some of the new recruits had started to call it, the Deep-Fryer, would create when they met. If that shudder was of fear or anticipation, he honestly couldn't tell.

-0-

"And that concludes my report." Rolo finished.

Bartley nodded to himself. "So the reason that Zero was able to disable the Lancelot and princess Cornelia's Gloucester was that they got caught in your Geass. I see."

Rolo lowered his head. "I will take full responsibility for that."

Bartley shook his head. "No need. If the viceroy hasn't noticed anything off, I will not be the idiot to enlighten her. The power of Geass is, per his majesty's orders, top-secret, and there is no reason for Cornelia to learn of it. Onto a more important topic, what can you tell me about that red Knightmare?" Cornelia had restricted all information going to him, so the only thing Bartley knew of the red Knightmare was what Rolo could tell him.

A shrug came from the child-soldier. "Not much. It seems to be built for speed and agility rather than raw stopping-power, equal to the Lancelot and the Vincent in both. It is a close-combat unit, and as far as I have seen, it has only three weapons. The Fork-knife is used to parry weapons such as Gloucester-lances, while a small cannon on the left arm may be used on enemies further away, but those are secondary weaponry. Its main weapon is the right arm, which has, according to Earl Asplund, something called a Radiant Wave Surger installed. I have supplied the report from the Lancelot's pilot, who has encountered it before, and I am able to confirm most of what he described. The newest addition to the machine was added to the head. The device sends out a blinding flash, which robs the victim of his sight for at least five minutes."

Bartley frowned. This newest addition was worrying. "Could it have been a Geass that robbed you of your sight?"

Rolo considered it. "It's possible. Such a Geass would have to either take form of a field, like my own, or be bound to the user's line of sight."

"So V.V. is involved?" Bartley asked. If he could capture the boy, the emperor would reward him greatly.

Rolo's head tilted to the side. "From my personal experience with V.V., I would not think so. It is possible that, should there really be Geass involved, these powers originated from V.V., but that does not mean that he is even in Area 11. A tactic that he would use would be to grant Geass to a few terrorists to cover his tracks and keep our attention on an Area that he has left already. Also, the other immortal C.C. could just as well be the source of the Geass, if it is one."

That was not what Bartley had wanted to hear, but as a scientist, he understood that sometimes you just couldn't get what you wanted and had to make due. "I see. Try to find out if it is a Geass and if not, how they managed to come up with that light. If you can, try to get this... headset."

Rolo nodded and turned to leave, when Bartley spoke once again. "One more thing. For the next week, you and the Vincent will not participate in any military activities. The one you're impersonating is known for being lazy, and we don't need to raise any suspicion about his sudden motivation."

Rolo bowed. "Understood." He said and left, while Bartley turned his attention back to his other project, Kewel Soresi and Jeremiah Gottwald.

There were a number of things he and his team considered doing, too much for one person, but since they had two, they could choose. The only thing limiting them was that Cornelia wanted Gottwald back able, intelligent, and sane, which meant that the operations that had a high chance of doing brain-damage had to be stacked on Soresi.

Then of course there was that machine they were building as a side-project. Bartley had found the designs in the documents of his predecessor and decided to build it. That had also lead to his decision to add the operation necessary to pilot the machine to the list of alterations done to their subjects. Of course, why stop there? He was designing a second machine based on the first. While the first one was more of a defensive, close-range tank, Bartley's machine would be a mobile weapon-platform with the power of a battleship.

The only problem was that for that, he needed schematics and data only Lloyd Asplund had, and the man was as guaranteed to be as willing to part with his data as he was to part with his arms. And as the emperor didn't want a weapon, but immortality, or something that had to do with it, it was not like he could just get an order for the insane earl to hand over the data. No, that would require patience, planning, a little bit of luck, and, unfortunately, time. Lots of time.

-0-

Kaname Ohgi leaned back and relaxed. This was one of the rare moments of peace, and he enjoyed them when he could. The maintenance on their Frames was completed, and now they had entered a phase of relative calm, as all knew it was only a short calm, seeing that the work would start over tomorrow with the newest shipment from Kyoto. Ohgi opened a small lunchbox and had to chuckle at the sight. "Octopus-hotdogs? She shouldn't have."

Nobody knew, but Ohgi currently had a freeloader under his roof, a very unusual one to boot. He still felt odd when remembering their first conversation.

Flashback

"What am I going to do?" Ohgi asked himself for the thousandth time. He had pulled a woman, a very attractive woman, out of the pacific ocean, a good deed done, but if anyone found her in his apartment, unconscious and naked, who would believe him? He should have called an ambulance, especially after noticing she had been grazed by a bullet, but what she had mumbled had kept him from doing so.

It had sounded as if she knew Zero's identity, and if that was true, Ohgi had two reasons to keep her hidden. One, so that this information would not pass to Britannia, which would be a disaster, and two, because he was curious himself. He trusted Zero with his life, but there was something odd about the man. He was, according to his own words, not Japanese, yet he knew Taizo Kirihara, who shockingly was one of the main-backers of the resistance, on a personal level, and seemed to be trusted by the old fox. Then there were the people he seemed to be able to pull out of his hat on a whim. First the boy that followed him around, who called himself V.V. and possessed knowledge and a behavior that no child his age should have. Ohgi had heard of medical conditions that trapped their victims in the body of children, no matter how old they got, and had wondered if V.V. was an example of this. Then that Mao, a person that creeped everyone out, as he seemed to be able to read minds with how good he could get into other people's heads.

Of course, the real reason Ohgi was worried was that Kallen seemed to get closer to Zero and his cohorts. Not in the way of adoration, but there seemed to be real trust forming between the two of them, and that worried him. Kallen was Naoto's little sister, and he had promised to watch out for her should something happen to him. Ohgi was a man that took promises very seriously, and Kallen was in some ways the little sister he never had, and just because he was willing to put his life in Zero's hands didn't mean he was willing to do so with Kallen's life. He had, without noticing himself, taken up the role of a protective older brother, despite the fact that Kallen was one of the last people that needed protection.

A noise pulled Ohgi out of his thoughts. He turned, to see that the woman had woken up. Just great, he just couldn't get a break, could he? "Ah, you're awake. My name is Kaname Ohgi, I found you between the pier and the ocean of Tokyo Bay, and I pulled you out before you'd get washed away."

The woman, obviously still dazed, nodded, before looking down at her blanket-covered chest and lifting it up to have a look.

Ohgi blushed crimson and turned around. "I-I'm sorry about your clothes. They were soaked, and I didn't want you to catch a cold. I was able to undress you with my eyes closed, but..." That was just pathetic! Even though Ohgi knew it was the truth, it sounded ridiculous to his ears! Nobody would buy that! 'Oh kami, if you have any mercy, strike me down now, and spare me the humiliation.' He silently prayed.

"I'm glad." 'Yeah, I knew she wouldn't believe... "Wait, WHAT?' He hesitantly turned around, relieved to see that the blanket was still covering everything. "Glad?" He asked.

The woman nodded. "Yeah, of all the people who could have found me, it was someone nice."

Ohgi's cheeks invented a new tone of red. "I-I... um... These are some of my old clothes. I don't know if they fit, but it's better than nothing." Oh god, did he really just say that? Ohgi felt the urge to bang his head against the wall. Better than nothing, just how stupid could he get?

But the woman was either really dense, or she could really tell that Ohgi was just a shy idiot blabbering. "Thank you."

Ohgi swallowed his embarrassment, and tried to focus. "Um, you mentioned something about Zero, can you tell me about it?"

The woman frowned. "Zero? Like the number? I don't know... anything. Who am I?"

Ohgi blinked. "You don't remember? Nothing? Not even your name?"

She shook her head. "Nothing." She confirmed, before looking at him pleadingly, her eyes begging for help.

Ohgi scratched his head. 'Amnesia. Well, I can't just dump her on the roadside, so...' "I guess it would be best if you stay here for a while. Just until you remember something. It's not safe outside these days, not here in the ghetto."

He could practically hear Tamaki whistling and saying 'Smooth, real smooth.'

She smiled at him, and Ohgi felt oddly happy. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad.

End of Flashback

A new recruit interrupted his musings. "Ohgi-san, there are some people here who I think you should meet."

Ohgi looked up, and his jaw dropped when he saw that the Four Holy Swords had just entered.

"We would like to request your cooperation in the rescue of Colonel Kyoshiro Tohdoh."

Ohgi blinked. "One moment please." He dialed Zero's number, his mouth oddly dry, desperately hoping that their leader would pick it up.

-0-

Lelouch flipped open his phone. It was a call from Ohgi. "Yes?" He asked.

Ohgi's voice was shaky. "Um, Zero, we have visitors asking for our assistance?"

Lelouch was intrigued. If this was who he hoped it would be... "Visitors?" He asked.

Ohgi seemed very uncomfortable. "The Four Holy Swords. They want our help to..."

"Rescue Tohdoh." Lelouch interrupted, a wide grin on his face. He had been expecting this. Ever since he had heard that Tohdoh had been captured, he had known that the Four Holy Swords would not abandon him, and that there was really only one group that had the means to free him. For that reason, he had asked Kyoto to add the Knightmares designed for Tohdoh and his best men to their delivery. "Of course we will do so, it would be a crime to allow such a man to die."

Ohgi seemed relieved. "Understood Zero. Shall we prepare for a full assault?"

Lelouch shook his head, ignoring the fact that Ohgi could not see the gesture. "No Ohgi. That would be counter-productive, as the men would only hinder each other. A small strike-force will be better suited, while others will sow a bit of chaos with other operations. And I think I know four people who would be perfect for the spearhead of that strike-force."

-0-

V.V. smiled when Lelouch gave him the okay-sign, telling him that the Four Holy Swords had finally shown up. Now at least some plans were back on track. As much as he wanted to, he couldn't start designing his Raikou-tank just yet. In that way, V.V. was a perfectionist. If he didn't have at least an idea how large a certain part, in this case the RWS-defense, would be, then he wouldn't work on the machine that the part would go in.

Instead, he tried to figure out just where Rolo had hidden it. There were protocols, but Rolo had to have been alone, so his options were limited. If he was also under orders to return swiftly, then he would not have been able to leave town, not with 'it' in the trunk.

'Calm down, and think it over from the start. Where could Rolo have got 'it' in the first place? There are only few places, even with his power, that would allow him to... Of course!' He grabbed a map, and studied it intently. Yes, that matched. It had to be there. Now the only question was when to tip the authorities off. If Rolo was present in the execution, then tomorrow would be the perfect time to trigger the bomb and with a little luck, drive Rolo into their arms. And worst-case, Rolo would die. It would be a shame, as the boy had very useful talents, but if he had to choose, then he would rather have Rolo six feet under than on the enemy's side.

The odds for Rolo's presence were very high. Even if the boy didn't want to, Cornelia would not allow such a powerful machine as the golden Knightmare to not be there to be a reserve in the case of a breakout. And she would have to be brain-dead to not expect an attempt to rescue the man who was a living symbol that Britannia was just as prone to mistakes as any other army, and while Cornelia could and had been called many things, stupid was not one of them. Still, it was better to have confirmation that Rolo was there before he sprang the trap, or it would all have been in vain.

But confirmation was relatively easy to get. A golden-shimmering Knightmare was not that easy to overlook, especially since the standard Britannian Frame-color was purple. He chuckled to himself. "Rolo, soon you will no longer be a problem, one way or the other."

-0-

Rolo looked at the phone he had taken from the duke's son. His vacation had been suspended by direct order of Cornelia li Britannia, as she wanted to have the Vincent on standby in case someone, the most probable candidates wore black and used a title commonly associated with Britannia, tried to break Kyoshiro Tohdoh out. He himself had no problem with that, but a noble would be most upset, and he had to keep up the illusion that it was a noble that piloted the Vincent. So he wrote a short text-message back that, so he felt, adequately described the anger a noble was at getting his holiday interrupted. The message he got back was short, to the point, and expected.

"Dully noted. Get your ass in gear, now!"

Rolo took his other phone and typed Bartley's number. His superior would need to be informed of the change in plans.

-0-

"I see. Well, there's no other choice. You will take your position and ensure that the terrorist Tohdoh is executed." Bartley ordered.

"Understood." Rolo replied, before cutting the connection.

Bartley bit his lip. This was troublesome. This operation was not planned, and that made him nervous. The boy didn't know, but Bartley could throw the boy a good distance further than he trusted him, and he never let Rolo do any operation without at least three people he trusted, meaning soldiers loyal to him, having Knightmare-sniper-rifles pointed at his cockpit. In this case, he'd be lucky if he could get one person in position.

Bartley feared Geass. This power that defied logic, that toyed with the minds of all, even his own. At the same time, he craved it, wishing to possess it himself, and was filled with deepest envy to all who could wield it. As there was no way for Bartley to gain the power himself, he felt threatened by it. If he could, he would kill every single Geass-user, but those few that he had access to were indirectly protected by the emperor, who found them too useful to simply kill off.

Still, the boy creeped him out more than anyone else. He could walk up, cut Bartley's throat and leave without even him knowing anything happened. Still, his services were useful, and Bartley's reputation had skyrocketed ever since the Vincent was doing such fabulous work under his command. If there really was an attempt to bust Tohdoh out, then Rolo would be there to foil it. And with that, Bartley's reputation would soar even higher. He couldn't wait.

-0-

The next day had crawled for all involved. Cornelia had been strapped down in her office listening to nobles that had more than they deserved whining about petty stuff. One, who was pushing sixty, actually tried to get her to order Lord Stadtfeld to sign a marriage-contract for his daughter, who was about Euphie's age, with him. Throwing him out if her office with generous use of her boot had been the best thing that happened all day.

In a minute of peace, she found Kururugi's file. "Now this is interesting." She muttered as she read that Tohdoh had been Kururugi's teacher for many years. This seemed the perfect test for the loyalty of the pilot of one of Britannia's most recent technical revolutions. If he could truly kill the man that trained him, then his loyalty was above any doubt.

-0-

The other side of the war had also suffered from anxiety, boredom, and the phenomenon of every minute somehow expanding to contain at least 200 seconds. Lelouch, V.V. and Kallen were almost relieved when their day of school was finally over, and they could turn to more important business.

V.V., who was not directly participating in the rescue, had finally gotten the confirmation that a certain golden Knightmare was indeed being stationed in the prison Tohdoh was kept. He laughed. "Finally things are falling into place." Then he looked at his primary contractor.

"Lelouch, after we pick up the delivery, I'll need someone to bring me here." He lifted a map and pointed at a specific part of it, close to the the 'entertainment'-sector.

Lelouch grinned. "So you plan to enjoy adult-pleasures? Tut tut, they'll throw you out. And while we risk our lives to boot."

V.V. growled. "Don't play stupid, it doesn't fit you. And its creepy. This is important. If all goes well, we will finally be rid of Rolo, one way or the other. Here, keep this communicator in your ear."

Lelouch raised a brow, but took the small earpiece. "I'll arrange something. But now lets hurry, before we're late."

-0-

The delivery had arrived before them, and now the organization of everything was dragging on. Maintenance, checkups, equipping of weaponry, such things took time. Especially on the Guren, as the smallest mistake with the Surger could cause it to explode.

Unfortunately, Tamaki was not known for his patience. "Oh, just stuff the damn stuff in already, we're supposed to be ready to sortie in ten!"

"Oh no you don't! Take as much time as you need, and be careful! Guren is very delicate. It was such a frail, delicate thing when I gave birth to her." A new voice interrupted.

Tamaki spun around to see who spoke, and found a tanned woman with bleach-blond hair and an odd spot on her forehead, glaring at him while holding a long pipe. He frowned as he tried to imagine this woman giving birth to the Guren, but the mental image was just too bizarre. "Who the hell are you?" He asked.

"Rakshata Chawla." Zero's voice rang out. Heads turned as he walked towards them, followed by V.V.. "How nice to finally meet the Guren's creator in person. I've been following some of your works with great interest."

Rakshata's brow raised in interest. Should she really find someone with whom she could discuss work? "Really."

Zero shrugged. "Yes. Your work on artificial limbs and general enhancement were especially fascinating." For the simple reason that they may help Nunnally walk once again.

Rakshata smiled. "Well, I'm not the type to cling to the past." Unless of course, it involved a certain Earl of Pudding.

Now Kallen entered, dressed in a new garb that nicely pronounced her every curve. "Excuse me, but will this really improve my synchro-ratio with the Guren?"

Rakshata rolled her eyes. "Of course not." She held in a chuckle at Kallen's dumbfounded expression. "It's going to improve your life-expectancy."

Zero nodded. "In any case, I would like to introduce you to my associate, V.V.. I know that he doesn't look like much, but you will be pleasantly surprised at his competence."

Rakshata looked at the boy, first thinking it to be a joke. "Hello child." She stated in a dismissing manner.

V.V. was entirely unaffected by her barely-veiled dismissal. "Good evening. I must say, the Radiant Wave Surger is an impressive piece of machinery with great potential. I still haven't figured out the final algorithm to allow the energy to merge into a barrier that would allow it to be used as a shield."

Now Rakshata was interested. "Oho, you say that you have most of it figured out?"

V.V. handed her one of the six notebooks he was carrying with him. "In this one I have most of my ideas, formulas and schematics for different applications of the Surger."

Rakshata glanced over them, and knew that she had found her new bedtime literature. This was fascinating. "Wait, the vector in this one..." And with that, she and V.V. started a conversation so filled with technical terms that nobody else understood anything but gibberish.

"Do you have any idea what they're talking about?" Kallen whispered to Zero.

"Gibberish. Seriously though, No idea, but as long as it benefits us, I'm not even going to try and get into this conversation."

Five minutes later Rakshata sniffed, before pulling V.V. into a hug. "I love this child. Is he up for adoption?"

"You want him? Take him." Kallen muttered, echoing vocally what Lelouch had just thought.

Zero cleared his throat. "I take it you agree with my assessment of my associate?"

Rakshata nodded eagerly. "Oh yes, he's brilliant!" She looked to him and actually cuddled him. Had any of her old assistants seen this scene, they would have gotten brain-cramps, as Rakshata never showed emotions to anything that possessed a heart of biological tissue. "You and I are going to have so much fun together!" She called out.

Zero nodded. "As much as it hurts me to break up this touching scene, you both have something to do. Rakshata, the keys please?" She handed him a ring with activation-keys, before turning away to supervise the final checkups, and making sure that no imbecile laid hand on her child. Zero turned to his fellow knights. "Minami, since you're not participating in this operation, could you do me a favor?"

Minami nodded quickly. "Sure, what is it?"

Zero nodded towards V.V.. "I need you to bring him to a specific place, which he will personally tell you. While this sounds stupid, I assure you that it is vital that he gets there before the rescue of Tohdoh."

Minami nodded, and went to a car, V.V. trailing behind him.

Zero on the other hand smiled beneath his helmet as he noticed four figures blocking his path. "Ah, the Four Holy Swords. It's an honor to finally meet you in person." He offered his hand, and Senba, being the oldest and as such, theoretical leader, shook it.

"The honor is ours, Zero-san."

Zero nodded his head. "Zero will do. I make an effort to stay close enough to those that fight with me to not alienate them, and looking at what we will do together this very night, I feel that we have no need for such formalities."

The four soldiers exchanged glances. Finally, they nodded. "As you wish, Zero. We thank you for your assistance."

Zero waved them off. "Think nothing of it. It is not yet time for Kyoshiro Tohdoh to leave this world, as there is much that still needs to be done. Japan still needs him. And you four. Since we're on the topic, follow me please."

He lead them to a set of five containers. "When I heard that Tohdoh was captured, I suspected that you four would soon come here, as skilled as you are, you four will not be able to rescue him alone. So I asked Kyoto to send these to me, so that I can give them to you."

The hatches opened, and the Four Holy Swords stared at what they saw. Zero laughed. "Gentlemen, and lady, may I introduce you to the Gekka? These models here have been designed based one the Guren Mk II, and I can assure you they pack a punch. Their specs are far beyond the Britannian average, making these Frames here Knightmares of the sixth, if not the seventh generation. These machines can run laps around any Sutherland or Gloucester the Britannians can field. The only thing aside from a lucky blow that these have to fear are the two units that have been causing us all much grief, the Lancelot and the Golden Knightmare. They are all equipped with an anti-Knightmare machine-gun mounted on the left arm, and Revolving Blade Sword, which you all may remember from your own customized Burai. But enough said, I would like to introduce you to your new Knightmares."

The Four Holy Swords, who had shown themselves reasonably impressed, stared at the news that these machines were for them. "You mean, you're just giving these to us?"

Zero shrugged. "I don't see why not. They were made for you in the first place, there is a fifth one for Tohdoh as well, I merely delivered them to you, although I do hope that you will use them well in the upcoming operation. The pilot-suits are in a suitcase next to the Knightmare's left foot. I will leave you all alone to familiarize yourselves with them. We are moving out in thirty minutes, the operation starts two hours later. I believe that will be all for now?"

Only one member had the strength to speak. Asahina, a bespectacled young man with a scar running over his right eye. "Yes, thank you very much for your cooperation."

Zero laughed. "Think nothing of it, as I said before, the time for Kyoshiro Tohdoh to die has not yet come."

He walked away, mentally steeling himself for the last confrontation. He entered the mobile command-center, and was immediately glomped. "Good evening, Lady Kaguya. To what do we owe the pleasure of your visit?"

Kaguya smiled at him. "The Six Houses of Kyoto decided that, as the now biggest resistance in Japan, you should have a direct contact and observer."

Zero tilted his head. "Why? Are the reports from the seventeen unofficial observers Kyoto sent as recruits that inconclusive?"

Now Kaguya was baffled. "You knew?"

Zero nodded, the mask hiding his smile, although his voice was filled with mirth. "As a person, Mao is rather unpleasant, but you will not find anyone that can get into other people's heads like they do. Mao was present in multiple meetings with the Black Knights and spotted every rat that managed to sneak past our screenings. At that point it took little effort to find out just what hole our rats had crawled from."

Kaguya's brows shot up. "That man is good."

Zero shrugged. "He knows what he's doing, that much is certain. However, I would like to know one thing."

"Yes?" Kaguya asked.

"Why are you here, lady Kaguya?" Zero asked. "If it was a simple matter of keeping a close eye on us, there are plenty others who could do so. Why does one of the leaders of Kyoto come all the way here, to do a job that any of her inferiors could have done?"

Kaguya gave him a smile that was just a little too innocent to be innocent. "Because I wanted to."

There was something she wasn't saying. Lelouch had no idea what it was, or if he even wanted to know, but there was something that she wasn't saying.

"And I wanted to see the fabulous victories of Zero-sama live, not just reported or on screen."

Hidden beneath his helmet, Lelouch's brow twitched. He thought that Kaguya had been sent to spy on him. That she was sent because people underestimated her because of her age and behavior. That she could easily overhear things and not be suspicious when snooping around. All of this was true, but the main-reason she had come, Lelouch realized with a silent groan, was simply because Kaguya was a hopeless fangirl of Zero. As if he didn't have enough of those as Lelouch Lamperouge.

-0-

Lloyd hung the phone up as if it were a disgusting, slimy creature. Cecile looked up. "What was that about?"

Lloyd sighed. "Apparently, her highness Cornelia spontaneously decided that she wanted Suzaku to execute Tohdoh."

Cecile blinked. "But why?"

Lloyd shrugged. "Probably a test of loyalty or something ridiculous like that. But it means that since I'm Suzaku's superior, I have to go and fill all those forms. Yuck, I hate bureaucracy."

Now Cecile's eyes flashed angrily. "Lloyd! Poor Suzaku has to kill someone, and all you think about is that you have to do some paperwork?"

Lloyd waved her off, still wallowing in self-pity too much to see the storm coming. "Suzaku's a soldier, killing is in his job-description."

Cecile's brow twitched. "Lloyd," She said sweetly, and the mad scientist looked up, now alert and worried "I think we have to have another talk about what is appropriate and what is not."

Lloyd wrecked his brain to find an excuse that would allow him to escape this lecture. Those were horrible, and they occasionally ended in acts of physical violence, something that Lloyd feared more than anything else. Well, except maybe damage to his precious creations. Finally he had an idea. "Let's get Suzaku, the viceroy doesn't like waiting."

Cecile considered this. "Fine." She finally relented. "However, but before Suzaku enters, you will learn proper behavior towards your fellow human beings. Your behavior is absolutely appalling, do you have no..."

Lloyd whimpered as the rain of scolding words went down on him. This was hell.

-0-

Minami had brought V.V. to the Denu River, as minor stream branching of the Ayase River, and the river flowing through the entertainment-sector built by the Britannians. V.V. knew that if Rolo had caught the duke's son anywhere, then here, as he was a well-known guest in some of these establishments.

There was still enough time for the police to find it, identify what it was, and send notice to the military. If they were lucky, it would happen right when the battle for Tohdoh was raging, if not, then oh well.

He found a telephone-boot and entered. These things were rare, but in sectors like these, where a husband might want to call some numbers that his wife shouldn't find in his list of callers, they were still built. And like all phone-boots, this one worked without money if you dialed a certain number. Granted, that number was different now, but the other end of the line was still the same.

"Tokyo Police, what is the problem?"

V.V. smirked, but gave his voice a panicked note. "Police? I'm in the entertainment-sector by the Denu River, just a second ago, a bloody jacket flowed past here. It looked expensive and there was some crest on it, a bird with spread wings, like an eagle or something. I think someone's hurt!"

The officer, at first distrusting at the sound of such a young voice, grew nervous when he heard the description. It sounded like the jacket belonged to a member of a noble family, and only four families had a bird with spread wings in their crest, all four bearing the title duke, and all four having some relative in Tokyo. If there really was a dead noble in that river, then it would be hell. "Where are you, boy?" He asked, but the boy had hung up. Damn! Why did little kids have to be so rash?

He grabbed his radio. "This is inspector Miles speaking, we may have a situation. We just got a call that a bloody jacket with the crest of a bird with spread wings is floating down the Denu River. We may have a duke or his family in that river, requesting all available men down to the river for a search, and as many divers as you can." If there really was a dead noble in that river, then the weather-report had just announced a massive shitstorm.

-0-

Euphemia looked at her brother. "Clovis, don't misunderstand me, it's really a great honor, but do you really want to name your museum after me?"

Clovis enthusiastically nodded his head. "Of course. The Euphemian Museum of Art. I think it sounds wonderful." He leaned towards her conspiratorially. "Truth be told, I'm just glad I won't have to call it the Clovis Memorial Museum of Art. It just doesn't sound right."

Euphemia slapped his shoulder in mock-anger. "Clovis! That's not funny! You really could have died!"

Clovis laughed. "But I didn't. And that's why I think it is only fair for me to joke about it, so that all know that I am neither traumatized by the events, nor does everyone have to tiptoe around the issue. Some of my guards have actually tried to conceal their weapons, as to quote-unquote 'not bring up bad memories'. Heaven knows what they are thinking. Do they really believe I will shriek and hide in corners every time I see a gun?"

Euphemia had to giggle at the idea. "That wouldn't be like you. But Clovis, why am I here?"

Clovis nodded sagely. "Ah yes, I didn't tell you, did I? Well it's simple. To celebrate the opening of this noble house of art, its naming-parent shall wander it, and pin this flower to the frame of the work she likes best."

Euphemia blinked. "Me? But Clovis, I don't know anything about art."

"Euphy, that's not the point. I'm not asking you to point out which of these works took longest to make, I'm just asking you to point out the one you like best."

She was still a bit uncertain, but she smiled at her brother, thankful for his show of trust, little as it was.

-0-

Suzaku stared into empty space. He had to kill Tohdoh-sensei. It was a bitter thought. The man had been a harsh, but just trainer, and he had covered up his murder of his father, in a way, Tohdoh was like a father to him. But Tohdoh had chosen a side, and Suzaku had chosen the other side, and even Suzaku knew that neither of them would accept that they had chosen the wrong side, so there was really nothing to say or do.

Tohdoh was ready to die. Now it was Suzaku's duty to prepare himself to kill. But as many times as Suzaku told himself that he was ready, there was still a voice in the back of his head saying 'No, you're not.'

For what felt like the thousandth time this evening, Suzaku sighed. Why did this have to be so difficult. His decision was made, his resolution was firm, and he knew that he had chosen the correct path.

So why was he still hesitating? Why was he afraid of tomorrow, the day he would execute Kyoshiro Tohdoh, the man who helped raise him? Why did his body want nothing more than run away?

-0-

While Euphy looked at different paintings, Clovis, who was walking next to her, was giving giving the curator distrusting glances, as the man was apparently trying to subtly push his half-sister towards a certain painting, one that depicted their father. Clovis had to suppress a snort. The painting was not even that well made, and if someone for some bizarre reason wanted to see the picture depicted, all he had to do was turn on the television.

Euphie paused before one painting, which showed a house with garden in a serene background. The very picture seemed to call feelings of comfort, of that fuzzy feeling of a nice day home. "I really like this one." Euphy declared.

The curator cleared his throat. "Yes well, our research showed that the artist was a quarter Eleven. Either way, why don't you look at this one. It was painted by the son of..."

Clovis was towering over the man before he could say 'propaganda'. "And precisely what are you trying to tell us with that? This is a museum for art, a noble institution whose entire purpose lies in gathering objects which touch the human heart. In this noble profession, it is not the artist that matters, but the work that he produces. I would not care if the artist was a chimpanzee. As for this one, it is not bad, but in this line of work, a title does not replace talent, or do you disagree?" It was not commonly known, but there was one thing that Clovis would die to keep free from bigotry, and that was art.

If he could, he would have the curator publicly flayed for daring to try bringing politics into art, the one place where racism had no place.

While the cowardly man wilted under the gaze of an angered Clovis la Britannia that was as cold and sharp as an icicle, Euphy shot her brother a grateful smile, knowing that even if she would chose the picture that was not politically involved, even if she picked the picture of the quarter-Eleven, her brother would support her. If felt nice to have an ally at your back.

-0-

"I assume that everyone knows what he has to do?" Zero asked.

"Positive." "Yes." "Of course." "Hai." "Sure do." Answered him. He made a mental note to get a little more discipline into his troops. They were about to begin an operation that many would label suicidal, and a little professionalism would be very reassuring right now.

The plan was simple, though its completion was not. They had found the rhythm of the guards, and new the window of opportunity to plant the explosives to break down the wall. After that, the Four Holy Swords would be the spear-tip of the assault, crushing all resistance, something that they assured would not be a problem, and then take on the Lancelot, should it make an appearance. The Guren would follow, and engage the golden Knightmare as soon as it popped up, as it had done so before, and because Kallen was the only one that stood a chance against Rolo's Geass, not that anyone else knew that. The Four Holy Swords and the rest of the Black Knights simply thought that there were some grudges between Kallen and the golden one. Zero himself would then secure Tohdoh and bring him to the Akatsuki reserved for him. They would then cause some more chaos, maybe even take out some bigger pests, namely the Lancelot and the golden Frame, and retreat before things turned grim.

Zero took a deep breath. "The explosives will be placed in T minus three, the actual attack starts T minus five. Double-check your equipment, this operation has no room for failure."

"Understood."

Behind his mask, Lelouch smiled. Everyone had said the same thing, and almost at the same time, too. Perhaps there was hope for them after all. Especially once Tohdoh was on his side, and giving his soldiers a few drills. God knew they needed them.

-0-

Miles looked at the river. It had been over an hour since the call, and he was starting to scold himself for falling for what obviously had been a child's prank.

"FUCK! WE FOUND SOMEONE!"

Miles spun around. A diver had surfaced, waving his arm. Miles and the others ran to him. "And?" Miles asked.

The diver took off his mask. "Well, there's someone down there, that much's for sure. But he's been there a while. The body is so bloated that I'm worried it'll fall apart if we try to bring him up."

Miles nodded. "So, any clue on what we might have found?"

The diver laughed. "Not even his own mother could identify that one, but what's left of his clothes look like it once had a hefty price-tag. It's obviously not an Eleven beggar that slipped. We can be grateful that the corpse got stuck in some garbage at the river bend, or it would be feeding the fishes of Tokyo bay by now. So, what do we do now?"

Miles bit his lip. He wasn't that high up the pecking-order, but since he had been the one that ordered the search, they all looked at him for the decisions, mainly to not get too involved if something went wrong. "Bring him up carefully. Try to keep him as intact as possible, but the head is the highest priority. Since I don't think we'll get finger-prints, we need the teeth for identification. As soon as that's done, get me an ID on this guy."

The diver nodded and replaced his goggles. This would not be pretty.

-0-

Lloyd sat in the prison office, feeling very sorry for himself. Yes, the words he had spoken were cruel and heartless, or at least that was what he had declared after Cecile's verbal mauling to prevent a repeat-performance, but the core of it had been true. Lloyd was giving his thirty-seventh signature, and the stack wasn't even halfway-down. He felt like a popstar giving autographs, and while his work was amazing enough that such a worship would be absolutely justified, it was not his favorite duty.

A new sheet was placed before him, and with the first glance Lloyd saw three spots he had to sign. Worse still, Cecile was sitting next to him, and the woman insisted that he carefully read through everything he signed, permanently reminding him of a certain event that had taken place back when they were still in college. "I have to sign this too?" He whimpered. According to Cecile, his three wishes were up, but if someone, anyone up there heard him, then please let something, anything happen to spare him this torture.

On cue, a number of explosions broke the tensed silence. Lloyd's head snapped towards the window, and he nearly laughed when he saw four unknown Knightmares break through the dust and charge towards the troops, followed closely by a fifth one in red that seemed very familiar. Lloyd made a mental note to give a prayer of gratitude when he was alone. He grinned. "Oh good, now we're free of this hellish paperwork." He exclaimed.

For some odd reason, Cecile was not as happy as he was.

-0-

"Oh man, now we're talking!" Urabe howled as he cut two Sutherland in half. "This feels like back in Itsukushima."

Chiba laughed. "Only this time we have our own Knightmares."

"And they kick ass." Urabe nodded happily.

Senba of course was the voice of reason. "Don't let down your guard. Remember what happened the last time we got cocky."

"The Phantom of Itsukushima." Asahina growled, remembering how he got his scar. "But he's not here. We don't know if he's even alive."

"But look whose trying to take up that role." Urabe growled as a golden Knightmare shot around a corner. "How convenient, we still owe him for the commander."

"Sorry, but he and I have unfinished business." Came a new voice, originating from a red Knightmare with a silver claw that elegantly zigzagged around the Four Holy Swords and charged its golden nemesis. Kallen knew that against what Rolo could do, they would be out of their depth, simply because they had no idea that the forces he, Lelouch and herself wielded even existed. "Lets dance asshole!" She shouted out, drawing the golden Knightmare's attention to her.

And indeed Rolo immediately corrected the angle of his charge, shooting towards the Guren like a shark on a wounded fish. Apparently Kallen was not the only one that didn't think the end of their last battle unsatisfactory and was itching for a rematch.

The two clashed, Kallen's Surger blocking the enemy's blade. She knew that in an open space like this, she was at a disadvantage, as Rolo could strike her without coming too close to the Surger, so she took her remaining course of action, she instantly came right up to his face, the space between the two frames less than a foot.

Rolo blinked, not having expected such a stupid move. He readied his weapons, when he realized that the Guren's face was now filling his screen, including the blinding lamps. "Shit!" He called and covered his eyes, just in time to catch the first glimmer of the lamps, but blocking the brunt of it.

However in doing so, he had taken his eyes off the enemy, something that Kallen mercilessly pounded on. Instead of grabbing him with the Surger, which would have provoked a counterattack, she kicked the other Frame in the back of the knee, destroying its balance. She gave a Geass-laced shout of victory when the cockpit collided with with the ground, hard.

-0-

Rolo groaned. He had hit his head.

"Report!" Bartly barked.

"I think I have a concussion." Role stammered out. "My equilibrium is gone." But even without balance, Rolo knew that he was a sitting duck right now. He activated the Blaze Needle in the direction he hoped his enemy was at, and fired. It saved his life, as the Guren had already aimed for his cockpit and was forced to pull back.

Rolo righted the Knightmare, only to notice that his concussion was worse than he thought, as he had problems telling where his limbs were when he wasn't looking at them, meaning that operating the pedals was now a task that required a glance, meaning taking the eyes off the enemy. Even with his Geass, this would turn into another dragged-out fight, unless he passed out.

-0-

Meanwhile, unnoticed, a black Burai with a red and golden headpiece slipped past all the action and slid towards the prison-area, sneakier than anyone would have thought a Knightmare to be able to. After all, Lelouch was a man on a mission, and getting caught was not part of it.

-0-

"Sir, we have an ID."

Miles spun around. "Who is it?"

The constable wordlessly handed him a folder with a picture. Miles grimaced. "Fuck!"

The other man nodded. "Yes sir. Son of a duke, military, this is big. The autopsy isn't done, but looking at how bloated the corpse was, the guys at the morgue said that the guy was dead for at least a week, maybe more."

Miles groaned. The son of a duke was dead for a week, and nobody had noticed. "Heads will role over this." He stated, already calculating to prevent his from being one of them. "Either way, since the guy is military, we'll push this to them. Corporal, inform the military of this development. Let them deal with the hassle this brings."

The corporal saluted. "Sir yes sir!"

Miles sighed. With the report he had to write, plus the fact that the electronics in their station had been faulty and failed to record the voice of the caller, this would be a long week. Of course, the argument that because of the military presence the police had been underfunded for years would now finally be put on the table. Who knew, maybe some good would come from all this.

-0-

Tohdoh sat in his cell. He was a soldier, and if truth be told, he was a samurai. He had been trained since the age of three for this noble art, mixing both old school practice honing body, sword and bow, with newer lessons in strategy, battle-tactics and use of modern weaponry. But more than the physical training, his mind had been steeled. He did not fear death nor pain, and even when the news that his own student, Suzaku Kururugi, would be his executioner had reached him, Tohdoh had not shown weakness.

Still, thinking of Suzaku woke mixed feelings in him. He had liked the boy, who had been very talented, even protecting him when his duty had demanded that he not, and had been amongst the few that did not hate the boy for choosing to become an honorary Britannian. Suzaku's heart was at the right place, he was still fighting for Japan in his own way, and as long as that was the case, Tohdoh would respect his decision. He did not believe that Suzaku could succeed, but the boy had to make his own experiences in life. Perhaps Suzaku was hoping to become Knight of One, and choose Japan as his area to govern. The boy didn't understand that the title Knight of One didn't mean that your opinion means anything to the emperor, but that the emperor's opinion meant everything to you. The Britannian exchange of opinions: You go to the emperor with your opinion and return with his.

His student had chosen his path, and it seemed that to walk it, the boy would step over his teacher's corpse. If the boy had the will, then Tohdoh would begrudge him his choices. Tohdoh was prepared to die, and now the only question was if Suzaku was prepared to kill.

He looked up to see two soldiers looking at him.

"Looks like someone is trying to bust you out," The first one stated "so her highness ordered for your informal execution to prevent an escape." With that, both aimed their guns at him.

It seemed as if his student would not kill him after all. Tohdoh closed his eyes. "Do as you want. I have already given up my life once, it is worth nothing."

"In that case, I shall lay claim to that worthless life." The wall broke, burying both guards beneath them. In the opening was a Burai, the cockpit open and a mask that anybody in Japan would recognize looking at the scene before him.

"Zero." Tohdoh acknowledged. "I am grateful to you for your attempt to aid commander Katase, but my master is dead. It would be a disgrace for the servant to outlive the master."

"Wrong!" Zero called out. "It would be a disgrace to leave the Japanese like this, crushing their hopes. Kyoshiro Tohdoh, through your actions at Itsukushima, you have given the Japanese a hope that to this day they still cling to, for you have proven that the Britannians are as mortal and prone to failure as anyone else. The reason the resistance is fiercer here than anywhere else is not merely because Japan surrendered before all its military strength was exhausted, it is because they know that Britannia can fall. Because of your action Japan still fights, and dying now would be a disgrace to Japan and an insult to those that fought and died for it!"

Now Tohdoh glared at him. "So you want me to perform another miracle for you?" He demanded.

Zero laughed. "Oh no, I think that I have sufficiently proven that as far as miracles go, I am quite capable myself. No, you never created a miracle, what you did was a result of superb intelligence, excellent strategy and complete discipline of both yourself and your soldiers. And that Kyoshiro Tohdoh, is why I want you. I expect you to plan, to fight for Japan even after it is freed. You see, I have plans that go further than freeing Japan. We could liberate Japan in a few weeks if we really wanted to, but we could not hold it. I need more than guerillas willing to liberate their county, I. need soldiers willing to defend their country. I need your experience Tohdoh, to prevent that Japan is reconquered the moment after it is freed. You are a samurai Tohdoh, and as such I expect you to fight until your last breath, until your name has been worn out and your body broken. I expect you to fight for Japan until you are but a shadow, until the names of the Miracle-maker Tohdoh, of the revolutionary Zero, and of the Black Knights are but faint mumbles in the flow of eternity. So Kyoshiro Tohdoh, will you take responsibility for the flames of hope you have lit in the hearts of the Japanese and fight until your last breath, or will you remain here and rot away? Understand Tohdoh, that I am not asking you to become my servant. I am demanding that you fight by my side, for Japan, for freedom, and for all the blood that has been spilled to reach the spot that we are standing on now."

Tohdoh looked at him. One thing was for sure, Zero was a gifted speaker. Then he laughed. "It seems that my time has not yet come. You are right, Japan is not yet free. So as long as your intentions remain honorable, I will give you my sword."

Lelouch smiled behind his mask. Tohdoh had just entered his service. "Very well. Your subordinates will be ecstatic to see you again. Come now oh knight, your new steed awaits you." Then he turned to the radio. "Begin Phase II."

-0-

Bartley watched the battle. It was a bit like the old gladiator-games the Romans played, only that everyone knew who would win. Britannia was invincible, and in only a few minutes, it would be raining Knightmares on the rebels' heads. Still, that red Knightmare was a bother, as it always got in the way of Rolo's victory, and the boy seemed to be jinxed when fighting that one. Still, it couldn't take much longer.

"Sir, we have a problem!" One of his assistants called out.

Bartley turned. "What is it?"

"We just managed to catch a report from the police to the military." the assistant reported.

Bartley nodded. They were eavesdropping, like always. What was the problem? "And?"

The assistant gulped. "The police just pulled the body of Duke Hemmingston's son out of the Denu River."

Bartley stared at the man. Duke Hemmingston's son was the designated pilot of the Vincent, the one Rolo had replaced. What on earth was that boy thinking? He was supposed to knock him out and lock him up somewhere, not kill the man! Then Bartley realized what had happened. He remembered his own words

"Your mission will be to take aver the Vincent and do the scheduled missions in his stead. You are to perform to the best of your abilities, although try to make sure that your cover isn't blown at the worst possible time."

How could he have been so stupid? To a child-soldier, the easiest and best way of making sure that one's cover wasn't blown was to ensure that there was nobody to blow the cover. Rolo had interpreted his order the way he was used to, seeing the duke's son as an obstacle and removed it. Even worse, now that the corpse was found, Cornelia would learn of it. If this was traced back to him...

-0-

Lelouch opened the hatch of his cockpit to allow Tohdoh to exit and enter his own Gekka. Unlike those of the Four Holy Swords, his was black and had two long red hair-pieces.

The greeting between Tohdoh and his subordinates was brief and heartfelt, until the Lancelot appeared. Lelouch had given Tohdoh an overview of the Lancelot's capabilities, as well as the identity of his pilot, so Tohdoh was prepared and could act on his knowledge, rather than having to be instructed, allowing Lelouch to concentrate on aiding Kallen with a few aimed shots whenever the golden monster got just a little too close for comfort.

With the odds being one on two and one on five respectively, the Black Knights were easily able to hold their ground, and do some damage to the structure out of spite.

-0-

Silence rang in the museum, as all eyes were focused on the big screen that showed the events at the prison. It was of course impressive how two lone Knights were standing up to seven enemies, although the white one was more impressive, fighting five at the same time, but that they were the only defense was worrisome. Had the enemy already destroyed the other guards? Were these two the last line of defense?

The crowd gasped as one when the top of the white Frame's cockpit was cut off, and gasped again when they saw just who was piloting the machine.

"An Eleven!" "Wasn't that Kururugi?" "The son of Area 11's last prime minister? Why is he in a pilot-seat and not a prison?" "Didn't he shoot Clovis?"

At that point Clovis la Britannia drew a line. "No, Suzaku Kururugi did most certainly not shoot me. He is a loyal soldier of the empire, who has proven both his worth and his dedication to the crown on multiple occasions."

Euphemia smiled gratefully at her brother, who had voiced the thoughts that she herself had been too shy to speak.

But the crowd still mumbled, especially after the Black Knights began to slowly retreat. At that moment Euphy decided to make a bold move. "I ask for your attention. Earlier this evening you have asked about my knight. Yes, it is true that one will enter my service. You have all just seen him on the screen. Suzaku Kururugi is my knight!"

Absolute silence reigned, even Clovis stared for a second, before his features changed to give the impression that this wasn't news to him, while showing his approval. The only thought running through his head was that Cornelia was going to butcher him.

-0-

"Kallen, we're pulling out. Enemy reinforcements will be here in a matter of minutes, and we really don't want to be here when they arrive."

Kallen didn't take her eyes off the enemy. "Understood." She answered nonetheless, as she drove the Guren in a slow reverse, not taking her eyes off the enemy for a second.

However, it seemed that Rolo was willing to let her go, as she had already put eight feet distance between them without him moving a muscle. Then she noticed a movement from the corner of her eye.

-0-

Rolo was grateful that the red Knightmare seemed to slowly be retreating. His balance had still not recovered, and he was getting a feeling of vertigo. If the battle lasted much longer, then he would lose. He felt miserable.

As he slumped together in his seat, he glanced to his side. A Knightmare was on the roof of the prison, a sniper-rifle in hand. It seemed that the red machine would fall today.

Suddenly his eyes widened as he realized that the Sutherland wasn't even aiming for the red machine, but him! But the sniper had shot a moment before Rolo realized this. He was in trance as he saw the bullet flying towards him, directly flying at his cockpit. His senses had been tensed enough for him to actually see the bullet, but there was no time. No time to dodge, no time to block, no time to even move. All he could do was watch as his death approached. Then there was an impact. But the bullet was still in the air!

'The red machine!' Rolo realized, before the bullet impacted and his world turned black.

The red machine had also seen the sniper, and charged him, the long leg shooting out and knocking the Vincent off-balance once more. It wasn't much, the bullet still pierced the cockpit, but now it hadn't hit the area of the pilot-seat, but a good bit above and to the right. There now was a chance that the pilot was still alive.

-0-

Lloyd had watched the whole display with distant amusement, up to the point where the five machines had ganged up on Lancelot and damaged it. However, the situation was under control, and the enemy was pulling back. Then some idiot fired at the Vincent.

Lloyd jumped up, murder in his eyes. "They shot Vincent? Those idiots shot my Vincent! THESE RIDICULOUS PATHETIC WASTES OF LIFE FIRED AT MY VINCENT!"

Cecile for once couldn't find the heart to scold Lloyd. She herself had put much work into that Knightmare, and seeing it being used as a target by their own men was also making her angry. If Lloyd left anything of the brainless baboon that fired, she would personally ensure that his life was hell.

-0-

Lelouch had been shocked when the shot came, but he saw the opportunity. "Grab that Knightmare, we're taking it in for research." He ordered, while giving off a shot at the Lancelot that managed to hit a Landspinner, followed by another volley aimed at the sniper.

Asahina and Chiba had broken off, dashed at the downed enemy and grabbed him, not caring much to what happened with the pilot. Still, they of course saw the value of the machine, and quickly popped the chaff to cover their escape.

They easily made it away, bringing two valuable pieces in with them, and in the safety of radio-silence and his cockpit, Lelouch laughed. He laughed a triumphant, mocking laugh.

-0-

But common knowledge dictates that if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is. On the Britannian mainland, Charles zi Britannia sat on his throne, looking at Dorothea Ernst, the Knight of Four. "And you are certain of this?" He asked-

She was leaning on his throne, and an immortal would have seen red rings in her eyes. She nodded. "Yes. I still have a connection, but it was time for a change of skin."

"Why now?" Charles asked. "And why send Alstream there of all places?"

Dorothea smiled. "Because they are there. Lelouch is causing quite a stir, and I want to see how he reacts to this. You have to admit, he is doing pretty good."

Charles laughed. "Indeed. He has a good head on his shoulders, equal to Schneizel. He inherited the best from both of us. Both our cunning, and your boldness. But still, why did you transfer your being? You seemed satisfied with Alstream."

Dorothea shrugged. "Because of Bartley. He's experimenting with V.V.s Geass Canceler. This way I will loose my last connection with Anya should she get caught in it, but otherwise I will be fine. If it hit me without any other place that my mind could flee to, I would either be forced back into my broken body, or simply fade away, and it is too soon for me to go. There are still things needed to be done before Ragnarok can be triggered."

Charles nodded. She was right. Things needed to be done. But for now, he and Marianne would lean back and watch how their son would deal with the newest turn of events. One thing that definitely couldn't be said about Lelouch vi Britannia was that he was not entertaining.

-0-

Bismark Waldstein stood in front of his fellow Knights of the Round. He had received orders from the emperor, and he would follow them. He looked around. Dorothea was not here, but aside from that, they were as close to complete as they currently could become. The Knights of Three, Six, Nine, Ten, and Twelve were present. He cleared his throat. "His majesty the emperor decided that the our newest member, the Knight of Six Anya Alstreim, will be transferred to Area 11, as she lacks actual experience on the battlefield. You will have one senior member of the Rounds accompany you as an adviser."

"I'll do it." The Knight of Ten, Luciano Bradley volunteered, thinking of the marvelous slaughter he could cause.

Bismark shook his head. "No Luciano, there is a different task that requires your skills. A group of religious extremists is rampaging in Area 18. The terrorists are terrifying both Britannians and Natives, so there will be little protest if martial law was used on them. However, deaths amongst Britannians and the peaceful Numbers is to be as close to zero as humanly possible, do you understand?"

Luciano's eyes had turned dreamy when he heard that he was basically allowed to slaughter each and every one of the terrorists, but he nodded. "Of course, of course. I'll depart as soon as possible to help our poor subjects live in peace."

Bismark nodded. "So, are there any volunteers for the duty of accompanying Anya? But do realize that you are there purely as a means of advice. You will not be entering combat unless there is truly no other way."

"Uh uh, here, I'll do it!" Gino Weinberg called out as he frantically waved his hand, the idea of what would amount to holiday in Area 11 sounding lovely in his ears.

"Are there other volunteers?" Bismark asked. He managed to not add 'Anyone?', but somehow everyone had heard it.

Another hand rose. "I'll do it."

Bismark nodded. This was not exactly who he had in mind when he asked for someone preventing the cocky clown of a Knight of Three from wrecking havoc on Area 11, but he'd take it.

"Very well. You will depart in a week's time."


Chapter 21 is finished. Whew, finally. I haven't updated for almost half a year, but it's finally done. This is probably one of, if not the longest chapter I've ever wrote. More than 12.500 words of story. Take it as an apology for the long wait.

Sorry for the long pause, it was a mix out of being busy, having writer's block, and my hard-drive croaking. Still, I hope you all liked the new chapter.

To my more recent fans, fanfiction removed my scene-breaks up to chapter 16, I'll be trying to put them back in. Seriously though, what was the big idea? This was sabotage and meddling with the stories of others. What do they care if we decide to put lines to make the story easier to read?

The reason I put that part about the altered Raikou in there was because while I like the idea of a linear cannon, I didn't like the Raikou in the Black Rebellion. It was essentially designed for the situation in Kawaguchi, but on open field, it is not a good weapon, for reasons I already stated. Also, it was too fragile. Seriously, how come everything explodes?

Rakshata and V.V.. What will these two think of, what monsters will they create? Oh, the fun I'll have, although they currently have limited resources, meaning that the really fun stuff can only show up after Japan is free. Rats.

As for Rolo, I guess I always liked him, and wanted him on Lelouch's side. And nobody can tell me that killing wouldn't be Rolo's first and most efficient way of ensuring that his cover wasn't blown.

Next chapter will be Rolo's first meeting with Lelouch and co, Milly's party, C.C., and maybe the appearance of the Rounds. And answer me this: Which Round will accompany Anya?

Someone told me that my story could be deleted if I keep directly answering reviews, so I'm just doing a Q&A. This also has the advantage that more people might read it, since I think only the people I directed the answer to bothered before, and I'm getting tired of having to answer the same questions over and over, in all of my fics.

Q: Will Euphy die?
A: Most likely not, though my final decision hasn't been made yet.

Q: Is Marianne still alive? Does she have her Geass?
A: I think that the answer is now obvious. The more interesting question would be, can Mao read Marianne's thoughts through the connection in Anya? The answer to that is a definite... maybe.

Q: Did Markus kill Marianne? And how do three people fit in the Guren's cockpit?
A: No, he didn't. And how they fit? By making themselves very small, and being very uncomfortable.

Well, thanks for reading, and now

Please Review