Episode 1: Check and Mate

Kururugi Suzaku was his friend, Kururugi Suzaku was his enemy, to think the day had finally come when they were forced to face each other with their identities. Yet that was not the most important problem right now, Nunnally had been kidnapped and he had to rescue her, above all else. Suzaku was an annoyance, a terribly big one, but not important, if Suzaku would simply step aside or at least wait! Euphy was the past now, but Nunnally was still alive.

Despite being at gunpoint by a tactically superior opponent Lelouch was fairly calm and certain that Suzaku could not kill him, the Sakuradite bomb he had on him was made for this very situation. The problem had been Kallen's appearance and her discovery of his identify, she was added onto his list of problems for after he retrieved Nunnally.

"Your existence is a mistake!" No! Lelouch was just doing whatever was necessary, anything that was needed to avenge his mother and build a new world for Nunnally, even if that meant killing Euphemia again. "You're someone that doesn't belong in this world!" To think Lelouch would hear those words out Suzaku, it stung Lelouch, yet at the same time, how dare he! "I will save Nunnally-"

Lelouch drew out his gun in fury, Suzaku was getting in his way and every second he was losing valuable time. How dare he deny everything Lelouch was now. "Suzaku!!!"

"Lelouch!!!"

The sound of gunfire surprised him, he was certain Lelouch had not even managed to aim at him yet, despite Suzaku's fury and shaking he had confidence that he could have shot Lelouch through the head before Lelouch even put his finger on the trigger. A pain in his sides erupted just as the sound of the bullet reached his ears. He had been shot! But not by Lelouch, no…

Suzaku turned his face towards Kallen, her expression had seemed like a lost child, in tears just moments ago but now it brimmed with resolve and that deathly expression he had imagined she wore every time he fought her and that red knightmare.

"Lelouch, get back behind the pillars, take cover!" She fired a second shot at Suzaku, aimed for his right arm, she didn't want to kill him, not yet at least. He was Japanese, and they had been friends, however short a time.

Suzaku leaped back towards one of the large stone pillars just as a second shot sounded in his ear. The bullet sheared the gun in his hands to pieces but he had managed to avoid taking another shot himself.

Lelouch's gun fired after Kallen's, Lelouch should have only had little accuracy from his range, but the bullet still managed to graze Suzaku's left arm, cutting through his pilot suit. The situation had turned tables on him, if Kallen could not let go of Zero even after discovering Zero's identify then he was at a significant disadvantage without a gun left.

Though odds meant nothing to Suzaku, he could no longer suppress his hatred, he would kill Lelouch, and he would not let Lelouch walk away now after he betrayed everything.

Suzaku pulled out a small military grade knife hidden tightly on one of his sleeves. Kallen was running up to him from the other side of the pillar, in a few moments she would provide him with a blind spot if he swung around the stone pillar at the right time. A miniscule blind spot, but for Suzaku it would be enough.

One more step…

Suzaku dashed out of the pillar's shadow and lunged straight at Lelouch before he had time to react. It would take Kallen only a second to see past the blind spot and realize that Suzaku had moved towards Lelouch, but that second was time enough.

"Suza-" Too late, Lelouch was too slow, Suzaku slid past Lelouch's held up gun and dove right in front of him, his knife drawn inches away from slitting Lelouch's throat.

The world seemed to slow in those last few inches, a part of his mind that was detached from everything remembered that there was still a Sakuradite bomb attached to Lelouch's chest. It would explode, kill Lelouch if he was not already dead, kill Kallen, and kill-

Live!

No! It was that same faceless voice echoing in his mind, controlling his thoughts, Lelouch's curse. He could not give out now, he had to kill Lelouch, his life did not matter, nothing but Lelouch's death did!

LIVE!

His body moved on its own, it swayed to the side just as a bullet whizzed by. Before Kallen could puzzle out what had just happened, a silvery flash appeared in front of her as Suzaku's knife cut right into her gun. The blade disappeared into the barrel and all she could see was the hilt of the knife. It was impossible! From that distance, and she never even felt it, the knife could not have been that sharp and Suzaku…no human could have thrown with that kind of accuracy and strength!

Lelouch fired his gun in the opening Suzaku has provided, yet the bullet went wide as Suzaku grabbed Lelouch's hand and jerked it to the side. In the same motion, he tripped Lelouch to the ground on his back flat to the stone floor. Crouching down on top of him, his fist raised. Even if had no weapon he had confidence he could still bash Lelouch's head far enough into itself to kill the man, whatever it took…

The sakuradite bomb drifted into his mind again.

LIVE!

The fist swung down onto Lelouch's head with a dull thud, but only enough to give a severely bruised eye. Suzaku stood back up and stomped on Lelouch's fallen hand a few times until he was certain he had heard bones crack. Bending down, he removed the gun from Lelouch's broken hand.

Euphy's killer was right in front of him, at gun point, vulnerable. He could avenge her now, he could kill Zero, he could kill Euphy's murderer…he could kill his friend.

Live!

Suzaku turned away agitated from Lelouch and pointed the gun towards Kallen as he began to walk out of the cave. His eyes clearly spoke of what he would do if she tried anything. "You're making a mistake Kallen, he will betray you, again and again until he has used everything you are worth, and then he'll toss you aside."

Kallen said nothing, she clearly seemed hesitant but likely not enough to change her allegiance now.

Once Suzaku walked past Kallen, he turned his subtle walk into a full sprint towards Lancelot. It took Kallen a moment to realize what was happening, she didn't know about the Geass cast on him, but she knew Lancelot stood just outside, and seeing Suzaku sprint must mean that he meant to use it.

But there was no way for her to get back to Gurren before him, he had a head start and he was a faster runner to begin with. She watched in dread as Suzaku slipped into Lancelot, his face covered with crazed delight.

The operating system booted up from within the cockpit and showed that Lancelot carried enough energy for his rifle, more than enough to turn Lelouch into a smouldering blot of flesh. Lancelot would also keep him safe, at least safe enough to prevent the Geass from triggering, whether he was truly safe mattered little to Suzaku.

Lancelot raised its rifle and aimed into the cave, the sensor only provided a weak estimate of Lelouch's position, but it didn't matter, he had enough energy to fire more than one shot, however many it would take.

"Stop Suzaku!" Kallen futile cry picked up on sensor, meaningless, Lelouch was within his hands now, even this curse could not stop him.

The aiming mechanism locked on, his finger was on the edge of the trigger and-

His hand slipped, his body slumped to the side and his vision began to double. He placed his hand back onto the controls, what had happened? He was so close! His left hand drenched in blood came up to his face as he remembered, he had somehow manage to forget the pain of the wound Kallen's shot had placed on him, but he had lost too much blood.

LIVE!

NO! He was too close, it would not make a difference, just one pull of the trigger. So quick and simple.

LIVE!

Kallen watched in amazement as Lancelot lowered the rifle and began flying away into the distance, back in the direction of the Tokyo Settlement. For some reason he had spared them, why she could not say, but she was glad, she still needed Lelouch, traitor or not, Japan still needed him.

Lelouch had survived, Suzaku had not decided to kill him, he could have, Lelouch was all too aware of that. Lelouch did not know why, but he could be certain it was not because Suzaku had a change of heart. The hatred between them was set in stone now, until the day one or both of them died.

Lelouch ignored all that now though, he could guess why Kallen had come after him, and he could not afford to go back right now, not before he had taken back Nunnally. Lelouch staggered up to his feet and reached out with the hand that Suzaku had not crushed towards the door of the ruins. The last time something had reacted to him he had simply needed to be here, hopefully touching this door would be enough to trigger it.

Upon contact the symbol of the Geass flared on the door, producing a ruby red glow. His consciousness seemed to jerk itself out of his body as he lost feeling of all his limbs and the pain. He began seeing images, very old images always against a white backdrop, a town…it used to be on this island, before there was Area 11, before there was even a Japan.

Voices, images flashed through his mind, of a man with Geass on both of his eyes like Mao had. He was old in the images, a long white beard, white hair, and a white robe. He was standing in a room as villagers worked around him, carving and carrying something into the room. "My…Geass…commands…god…kill…everything…"

The words were difficult to catch and the incomplete sentence provided little information, it was like watching a damaged video recording.

More images, but they began making less sense, Lelouch seemed to recognize and understand some of them but his mind couldn't retain memories from merely seconds ago. Racing across this plain of space and time, he saw and heard so much more than any one person could in a lifetime but forgot every thing the moment it went away.

Slowly the images and the sounds faded and he could begin feeling the tingling of pain rising from his right hand and his eye.

He was standing on some kind of platform made of giant slates of stone, seemingly suspended in mid-air. The platform was placed above a cliff overlooking an ocean. The sun was setting in the distance and it created a soft orange glow around everything. The platform carried little on it, simply an altar near its center where a blue sphere floated above, vibrating, expending, and then contracting at random.

Two human figures stood near the altar, gazing off into the sunset, their faces turned away from Lelouch. Neither of them was Nunnally but he could recognize the taller figure even in his nightmares. The source of the hatred Lelouch held for this world, the only man he could not let live since the day he put on the guise of Zero.

"…Charles zi Britannia…"

Charles kept his back to Lelouch and spoke, though he spoke towards the vast horizon, his voice seemed to echo in power next to Lelouch's ears. "Foolish son, by coming you have forfeited yourself. You have already lost."

Lelouch dearly wished Suzaku had not taken his gun at that moment. It was impossible to think he could kill Charles with his bare hands, a man who looked about twice as big as Lelouch. It meant he had only one weapon left, his Geass. "You are wrong father, the one who has lost is you. After I kill you now I will proceed to make Britannia fall at my hands." Lelouch was waiting, his Geass ready for the moment Charles turned around.

"My death? The fall of Britannia? You are indeed the son of Charles zi Britannia…but, such small goals for one with the power of the Geass."

Lelouch was glad Charles was turned around at that moment as he had no means of hiding the surprise that shown on his face. How had Charles learned about the Geass? Was he behind Clovis' project back in Japan? Behind this very place in Kamenijima? He had lost a dangerous edge if Charles knew about the Geass, it would be safe to conclude that Charles had also puzzled out Lelouch's Geass, hopefully the conditions it required was still secret.

"Do you know what this place is Lelouch? This is a part of the ultimate weapon built through the efforts of hundreds of years, a weapon meant to unravel god."

"God?"

"The bonds between human beings, friendship, love, hatred, betrayal. The laws that govern our world, the very nature of every object we know of. Everything is a part of that system, by which we call God." It was only now that Lelouch noticed the second much smaller figure standing next to Charles, a boy perhaps younger than Nunnally's age, with long streaking blond hair that almost touched the ground. He appeared to be slightly fidgeting, somewhat impatient it seemed, perhaps that could be used.

"That isn't important, where is Nunnally?"

The young boy giggled and turned to face Lelouch, he had violet eyes and the face of a boy as young as Lelouch had imagined, a child. Yet him being here contradicted that idea in every sense. "Behind you, big brother."

Lelouch didn't hesitate, his talk with Charles had calmed his temper with Suzaku, had had been thinking of every possible scenario during their discussion, bidding his time. The boy had given him one by turning his way and Lelouch intended to use it.

"Lelouch vi Britannia commands you, kill Charles zi Britannia!" The boy seemed stunned for a few moments, then he laughed. His laughter howled in Lelouch's ears as he stared in amazement, nothing had happened his Geass had failed to make an impression on the boy. That was impossible, he knew the conditions of his own Geass and there were only two cases where-

"You are most interesting Lelouch." The boy spoke back to Lelouch as though Lelouch was the child and the boy the adult. "You abandoned everything, hid from the royal family, retaliated against your very country yet you still use your name, Lelouch vi Britannia."

There was no choice, if the boy was somehow the same as C.C then Lelouch had already lost, he could only believe it had been some kind of coincidence, the boy had dodged his vision or…or something. "I command you, kill Charles zi-"

The boy's face turned from amused to impatient, "Useless, it is as you have most likely guessed at this point, I am like C.C, a bearer of the Geass' will. The power of Geass does not affect us."

Lelouch cursed under his breath, it seemed he was short of options. With his left hand, he pried the Sakuradite bomb off his chest and held his thumb on to what seemed like a button on the back of the bomb. "Then we can all die together, Charles zi Britannia."

Charles never bothered to turn around to look at Lelouch, he simply spoke. "Knight of Six."

The sound of pistol fire echoed in Lelouch's ears, he had not believed the boy's message about Nunnally being behind him, but he had never imagined that one of the Knights would have been here. His fingers slid off the Sakuradite bomb which dropped to the floor, his left arm fell limply towards his side as a small bullet hole on his forearm oozed blood.

The searing heat and sensation of pain did not register until a moment later. Lelouch collapsed onto his knees, a short moan escaped from his mouth.

"Don't be shy now." The boy seemed to be talking to the Knight behind Lelouch. Gesturing the Knight of Six to walk forward.

Crisp sounds of footsteps echoed in the air as a small figure cast a shadow over Lelouch. Lelouch looked up towards the Knight, this was his last chance, the Knight had a gun, and if he could gain control of him he could-

"…Nunnally?"

The young boy giggled in delight, "I told you didn't I? She was behind you." He began walking closer to the pair, his face carried the expression of an older brother about to explain something trivial to a silly little child. "She's no longer the Nunnally Lamperouge that you remember. Now she is Nunnally vi Britannia, newly dubbed second princess to the imperial family and Knight of Six under the emperor Charles zi Britannia."

He looked down at Lelouch's amazed expression, "In other words, she's not your sister."

Lelouch could not help but admit that he was right to some extent, the same smile she would wear when thinking of her brother was now painted over with a dull expression, as though she were bored. Her eyes stared at him, open, intent, a miracle in itself, but the look she gave him was beyond his worst nightmare. She had walked on her own two feet to stand in front of him, even wearing that look as though Lelouch was a pest waiting to be dealt with, Lelouch could not be sure whether he was not grateful for what they had done to her.

In a way his wish had been partially fulfilled, as the Knight of Six and second princess of the imperial family she held enough authority to stand on her own, and she been given back her sight and the use of her legs, something Lelouch could not have provided for her no matter how many battles he won or how many people he killed.

Charles zi Britannia strode up to Lelouch. Gently he took hold of Lelouch's face and lifted it to face the kneeling emperor. Lelouch could see the two Geass on the man's face, he knew, whatever Charles had done to Nunnally, it had been the power of the Geass.

Lelouch made no attempt to retaliate or fight back. Nunnally would shoot him before he managed to dictate his command, or Charles would cast his own mysterious Geass beforehand, either Lelouch had…yes…

"You have been defeated Lelouch vi Britannia."

Lelouch laughed weakly in resignation, he had lost, everything he had done to come this far, killing his cousins one by one, Clovis, Euphemia, Cornelia. Betrayed his friends and companions, Suzaku, Shirley, Kallen. All of it had come to an end.

"So it seems." Tears threatened to escape his eyes, his failure meant more than just himself, everyone he had killed or died in his name, everyone he had betrayed, all their sacrifices meant nothing now that he had lost, they had died for nothing.

"Foolish son, by coming you have forfeited yourself. Then as you wished, you will be Britannia no more, you will simply dance to whatever value you have left until there is none, Lelouch Lamperouge."

"Say bye bye to your sister child." The boy taunted him, for the last time.

Lelouch took one last look at the girl before him, a stranger now, but she was still his beloved sister. "I love you, Nunnally."

Then the world went blank around him, it could only have been the effect of Charles' Geass, it would be useful to note that Charles had not needed some kind of contact or command to use his Geass.

"Useful? No, I've already lost, everything is about to end."

Piece of Lelouch's mind faded away, and then slowly, his consciousness itself.

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He had survived, Suzaku had not decided to kill him, he could have, Lelouch was all too aware of that. Lelouch did not know why, but he could be certain it was not because Suzaku had a change of heart. The hatred between them was set in stone now, until the day one or both of them died.

Now there was the matter of Kallen knowing his identity. How much of the truth could she safely accept, how much of it would have to be a careful lie?

She ran up to him, and knelt down, which made Lelouch realize he was still down on his back on the ground since Suzaku threw him there. "Are you alright Lelouch?"

Lelouch used his left arm to hold himself as he slowly got upright and leaned against the giant door of the Kamenijima ruins. "Yeah, I'm still alive."

Kallen's attitude seemed to change as soon as he informed her of his health, "Good, now answer my questions, why are you Zero, what are you planning? Have you sold us out to Britannia? Is that why you're here?"

Lelouch paused, "Here? Here is…the Kamenijima ruins…why…"

Click…Click Click Click Click Click Click Click…

Lelouch's mind seemed to work in slow motion as he tried to piece together the answers himself. "I am Lelouch Lamperouge, the son of a Britannia merchant as my father and Italian politician as my mother. When I was younger my…father relinquished his position as a Britannian and went to the E.U to be with my…mother…"

Kallen didn't interrupt Lelouch, she seemed to find it perfectly normal that he paused awkwardly sometimes, as though trying to draw out the memories himself. Or perhaps she was simply remaining skeptical of everything he said.

"My father died in an attack on a city protecting my mother and I was sent away to Japan shortly, my mother hoped I would avoid death by pretending to be Britannian under one of its colonies."

There were too many holes in his explanation, they contradicted to too many things he had done, but for some reason Lelouch found the explanation fitting in so well in his mind he could find no reason to refute them.

"I became Zero in hopes that liberating Japan would shift Britannia's attention away from the E.U and my mother could use her political power to strike back while Britannia was occupied with Japan."

Kallen seemed to accept that explanation, it was logical, and human, but almost too much so for Lelouch, for Zero. Yet she accepted it, believed it, she wanted to, she wanted to continue believing in Zero, maybe more so now that she knew who he was. "Then why are you here? Why did you abandon the battle in Japan?"

Click.

"That is…"

"Kallen?" The buzz of a voice from Kallen's communicator cut off their conversation. "Kallen, are you there?" The voice was hard to recognize but it seemed to be Kanami's.

"Kouzuki here."

"Have you found Zero? The Black Knights are being pushed back, our forces are slowly starting to retreat but most of them are being captured or killed, we need Zero."

Kallen looked at Lelouch, confounded, leaning against the wall, trying to puzzle out what had occurred. "I found him, I'm going to bring him back now."

Lelouch lifted himself up and placed his hand over Kallen's communicator, "Kanami, what's the situation?"

"Is that Zero? We've lost control of the school, it's been re-taken with the Avalon but something's happened and some of our people are still being held up there. Todoh has lost the front ranks and he's trying to organize our escape but it doesn't look like he'll make it, Britannia reinforcements have been spotted less than four hours away from us." Kanami sounded slightly panicked, but mostly resigned. Kallen cursed softly on hearing the news, the situation had completely turned around on the Black Knights.

Lelouch's regained his calm and ignored the hole in his memory, at least for now he needed to. "Kallen, how quickly can you get us back?"

"An hour if we push the flight unit hard enough."

"Kanami, have Todoh pull off the retreat, have our forces gathered to the Northwest Square of the Viceroy palace within the hour and hold their stand there."

"Impossible Zero! We'll all die!"

Lelouch used his left hand as he lifted up the veil that covered the lower half of his face. If Japan failed now then everything that had been done would have been worthless, he could not afford to lose yet.

Britannia would fall at his hands and E.U would be safe, his mother would be safe, and his father avenged. Lelouch took the communicator away from Kallen and spoke directly into it.

"I am Zero, and I will return with a miracle."