(I decided to start on this one, since my other fic 'Sum of Our Choices' seems to be going well, and has been planned out in full. The concept for this fic was put to me by The Triumvirate of Rei, who has the credit for its invention. I acted in an advisory role, fleshing out some of the concepts, and shall be the writer. This fic is set primarily in the Code Geass universe, with certain concepts and characters imported from Gundam 00. As such, I have interpreted it as being a Code Geass fanfic and not a true crossover. Any further questions should be directed to the Triumvirate of Rei.

Also, these chapters have been retconned in accordance with critique from TheDevicer.)

It was in the year 2004 of the Imperial Calendar that the Federal Republic of Krugis met its final end. Once spanning the Middle East, the Republic was riven with religious and ethnic strife, coming to a head in the year 2001 with the accession of Dariush Shah to the throne of Iran. To the progressives who leaned towards the European Ultra-Union, Dariush was at best a benevolent autocrat, at worst a tyrant in the making. To religious and social conservatives, he was a closet reformer who sought to change Iran, and perhaps all of Krugis, in ways they neither understood nor desired. In truth the Shah was neither; an unfortunate moderate caught in the middle trying to be the Referee. When Kurdish Separatists in the Provinces of Turkey, Syria, and Iran rose in revolt, wishing to join their lands to the Province of Kurdistan, the Progressives made it a pretext to bring in EU Peacekeepers. Religious radicals took this as a declaration of intent, and launched uprisings all across Krugis, taking control of the Provinces of Afghanistan and Pakistan to form East Krugistan. The armies of Central Krugis remained loyal to their Shah, crushing both revolts within Iran, but soon found themselves trapped between the forces of both East Krugistan and West Krugis. Realizing that there was little hope of victory, the Iranian Majlis persuaded the Shah to seek help abroad. Since the EU was tentatively backing West Krugis, the obvious choice was the Holy Empire of Britannia. Seeing a fine opportunity to test new military concepts and gain some territory into the bargain, Emperor Charles zi Britannia the First, Ninety-Eighth Emperor of Britannia, dispatched an expeditionary force to aid his fellow ruler. The expedition's leader was a man of some renown, and one whose life and death would become of crucial importance to subsequent events. A man who, by a single act of altruism, would help change the course of history.

His name was Bismarck Waldstein, and he was the Knight of One.

Prologue

Golestan Palace, Tehran, Capital of the Kingdom of Krugis, 2004 ATB

It was a cold night. But the climate was the least of his concerns.

Bismarck Waldstein, First Knight of the Round Table, Commander of the Krugis Expedition, had a great deal on his mind.

He stared down at the holographic map, which displayed the Middle East in detail. All the provinces of the former Federal Republic of Krugis were marked out, coloured to show their present allegience, or who happened to have conquered them. Iran, along with Kurdistan, and Iraq to its south, were marked in the Imperial blue. The former provinces of Syria, Transjordan, Israel, Lebanon, and Turkey wore their new colours as the Syrian Arab Republic, the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan, the State of Israel, the Republic of Lebanon, and the Republic of Turkey respectively. To the East, the former provinces of Afghanistan and Pakistan, were coloured to represent their new owners, namely China and India respectively.

He grabbed at a sheaf of papers and flicked through them, absorbing the information quickly. They were the latest reports on the state of the enemy, and there was nothing that surprised him.

"My Lord." The voice drew him from his thoughts. He turned to see an adjutant, whose name he could not remember, standing to attention. "My Lord, the Emperor is ready to receive your report."

"I will make contact in here. Leave me." The adjutant saluted and left the room. Bismarck turned and strode into the centre of the room, facing the screen on the rear wall. The screen flickered to life, briefly showing the Britannian flag, a red cross superimposed on a white cross on a blue field, with the crest of the House of Britannia in the centre, a lion and a serpent, topped with a crown. The screen flickered again, showing a man older than himself, with long white hair arranged into magisterial rolls, and a short white beard. His face was lined with age and stress, his eyes narrow and hard. It was the face of the man who had won his respect. Bismarck dropped to one knee, quickly enough to be respectful, but not so quickly as to be obsequious.

"Lord Waldstein," spoke the voice of Charles zi Britannia, 98th Emperor of the Holy Empire of Britannia, transmitted over thousands of kilometres. "Report"

"Central Krugis is secure, your Imperial Majesty," Bismarck began his report. "The East Krugistanian armies are destroyed, as are those of Western Krugis. Indian forces have control of Islamabad as of two hours ago."

"Hmmm," the Emperor seemed to take this in. "What of the EU forces?"

"Their forces have completed their withdrawal from the former West Krugis, with the exception of the Republic of Turkey. They have deployed strategic SAMs inside Turkish territory, and several aircraft have been shot down as a result. I have received back-channel requests from the new National Governments and the EU for an end to hostilities. Your Majesty, I respectfully ask for your permission to end the campaign."

"You have my permission, Lord Waldstein," the Emperor cocked an eyebrow. "But what of the Shah?"

"The Shah has agreed to my proposal, your Majesty. I must also recommend that no action be taken against the Chinese Federation. I do not believe they will make any further aggressive moves at this time."

"Very well. Afghanistan and Pakistan will give them troubles aplenty. How did the knightmares perform?"

"The Ganymede ALI has proven effective, your Majesty, but I would not recommend it for future combat deployments."

"And why not?"

"The All-terrain Land Intervener upgrade package is quite extensive, your Majesty. The Ganymede simply isn't designed for combat, though we have gained useful insights from using it in battle."

"Be careful what you say, Lord Waldstein," the Emperor cautioned mildly. "This project has many opponents, especially in the Air Force. Are you implying that the knightmare frame is a flawed concept?"

"No weapon is universally useful or invincible, your Majesty," Bismarck was not intimidated. "I believe that the knightmare frame will be the weapon of the future. But our future knightmares will need to be faster, more agile, more compact, and better-armoured."

"Marianne would be pleased to hear you say that, Lord Waldstein," the Emperor smiled slightly. "She made the same recommendations herself. I shall put it to Reuben Ashford, of course. It might give him a lead on Britannic."

"That could be construed as collusion, your Majesty."

"She is my wife, Lord Waldstein," the Emperor's smile became a smirk, taking it in good humour. "If she cannot be of advantage to her friends, then what would be the point?"

"I daresay, your Majesty."

"In any case, I have made the necessary arrangements regarding the Shah. I will send a Courier with the Letters Patent for you to present, naming him as King of Krugis. I trust this will suit your intentions for Area 7?"

"It will, your Majesty."

"Lord Waldstein," the Emperor gazed into his eyes, weighing and measuring his most trusted servant. Bismarck stared back, hiding nothing, and having nothing to hide. "Are you certain that your methods will work? To allow an Area to keep its name, and even govern itself. This has not happened since the Area system was adopted."

"Your Majesty," Bismarck weighed his words carefully. "I believe that the best way to rule over people is to make them want to be ruled. Thus if we make our rule both beneficial and invisible, the inclusion of Krugis within our Empire should be both sustainable and mutually profitable. We have conquered them, and they do not know it. People cannot rebel against what they cannot see." The Emperor appraised him for a while.

"You have chosen Area 7 for your fief, by your right as Knight of One," he said eventually. "It is yours to do with as you see fit. If it goes well for you," his eyes gave a rare sparkle, "it may lead to considerable changes." He acknowledged Bismarck with a nod, and disconnected. Bismarck stood up, and headed for the window. There he stood, staring out over the city, allowing himself to think.

He was a soldier. He had been a soldier all his life. Fighting was as natural to him as breathing was to anyone else. But he was not a mindless killer. He understood the true nature of his profession. He understood that every soldier he killed was someone's son or daughter, perhaps a brother or sister, a husband or wife, a father or mother. He enjoyed fighting, to test his skills, to push body and mind to the limit, to revel in the power he had earned. He did not enjoy killing. Killing was something to be done as a last resort, when it could not be avoided.

He had killed in that campaign. He could not deny it, nor did he seek to. He had planned and ordered the air attacks against East Krugistan, leaving them naked before the Indian assault. It was he who organised the provision of Ganymede frames to the Central Krugis forces, with which they wrought such havoc and destruction. It was he who had taken personal command of the Shah's armies, who had earned their respect, led them to victory, made them able to kill and destroy on such a scale.

Bismarck felt no remorse, no regret for what he had done. He was a warrior of honour, and conducted himself as such. Others might kill and destroy as they pleased, but Bismarck Waldstein did not. Others might burn, rape, pillage and plunder, but Bismarck Waldstein did not. His conduct was his own business. His oath was the Emperor's, but his honour was his own. Only by knowing himself, and being true to himself, could he be free.

It was not his conduct that he regretted that night. Nor was it his past. What he had done ten years ago, he had done for Britannia, for a friend, for a man who had won his respect. There was nothing to regret there.

His mind wandered down memory lane, to probably the most important night of his life.

"Tell me, Lord Waldstein," Prince Charles zi Britannia turned his head slightly to look at his companion. "Is there anything in this life that you regret?"

"Only one thing, your Highness."

"Pray tell, if you don't mind me asking." Bismarck paused. To reveal it was no small thing, even to this man.

"That I have no son, your Highness."

"Hmmm," the Prince paused, nodding. "Yes, I can understand that. It would be a shame if your line were to end tonight, Lord Waldstein."

"I have no intention of dying tonight, your Highness."

It had been the night of May 6th, 1997 ATB. The night when he had helped Charles zi Britannia take the throne. He, and a certain Lady Marianne Lamperouge, a fellow Knight of the Round Table. Lady Marianne Lamperouge, who was now Empress, first among the Emperor's consorts, and mother to two of his children. His student, rival, and the nearest thing he had to a friend. She had helped him win over the S.I.S agents, who were supposed to be watching out for that sort of thing. She had helped him win over the Imperial Guard, who should have gunned him down in his tracks.

But they had not. They were embittered, distrustful, embarrassed by the House of Britannia, to whom they were oath-sworn. To them, Charles zi Britannia brought the promise of renewal, a chance to set things right. To them, he was the Empire's rightful ruler, its last best hope.

For that ideal, he had slain six of his brother Knights, and condemned the other three to death. He had overseen the deaths of thousands, hunted down by the S.I.S, slaughtered by the Imperial Guard. The Princes and Princesses, gunned down with their loyal courtiers and knights. The Royal Guards who supported them, massacred in their barracks. The Generals murdered by their own staff officers, the bureaucrats found dead in their offices, the Noble families slain and dispossessed for choosing the wrong side.

The only alternative had been civil war. The innocent could not be made to suffer for the caprices of Royalty and Nobility. Such things had to be dealt with among themselves. That was the better way. That was Britannia's way.

And as such, he did not regret it.

"I never found the time for a wife," he thought wistfully. "I suppose I would be hard for a woman to live with."

He drove the melancholy thoughts away. Turning his thoughts to his duties, he left the room and headed downstairs. It was time to inspect the security.

It was not something he really needed to do, but he thought it prudent to check the security himself. He had earned himself a reputation for anal-retentiveness, but saw no reason to change his ways. The smallest detail could make the difference between victory and defeat. And the smallest details of the Golestan Palace's security could mean the difference between life and death for more than one person.

Soran was frantic.

It had been a risk to come so close to the Palace. He had thought that the other urchins would stay well away, for fear of being shot at by the guards. He had thought he could find somewhere safe to sleep, where his enemies were unlikely to come looking.

No such luck. A bunch of his fellow street-children had had the same idea, and were now in hot pursuit, hoping to despoil him of whatever food he might have.

They were always doing it. They knew he was good at getting food, clothes, and other things. He was good at surviving on the streets, as he had done for as long as he could remember. Begging would've gotten him rounded up and dragged off to some orphanage, or worse. He lived on his wits, and being too small and fast to catch.

He paused, trying desperately to still his breathing, pressing himself against the wall. He waited, for what seemed like an age, until the running footsteps receded.

He poked his head out, glanced from side to side. Seeing no one, he moved cautiously along the wall towards the end of the alley. Looking out, he could see the outer wall of the palace, with guards in red and black uniforms patrolling up and down. They were quick and clever, and he knew better than to let them see him.

Going near the palace was dangerous. It had been ever since the Shah's cousin had gotten himself blown up. Prince Fereyoun never suspected that that one of those clean, smiling, angelic children was not all he appeared to be. He would not have been the only street child lured away with sweets and sweeter promises.

For Soran, it was an absolute pain. The guards were taking no chances, and took pot-shots at any urchin who came too close. He could no longer hang around the kitchens in the hope of throwaways, or if someone was feeling particularly generous, a bag of leftovers. The best he could hope for was that no one would follow him this close to the palace.

Soran knew a good place to hide. Only he knew about the air vent leading into the storeroom, and he was just small enough to fit through it. He could sleep there in safety, and escape in the morning. But he would have to get to the next alley along. If he moved along the outside, there was a chance the guards would see him, then again, it was getting dark, so they might not. If he went back, he would more than likely run into that lot again.

He decided to chance it. He glanced back and forth again, saw no one looking, and slunk sideways along the outer wall of the building. He tried to control himself, but mounting terror was driving him along, faster and faster, his ears straining for the staccato chatter that marked his end.

There was a piercing screech, following by a frantic scrabbling, as his foot came down on a rat's tail. Soran froze, glanced around in terror, saw two shadows detach themselves from the wall of the palace. Lights strobed out. They were not the big ones on the roof, but small torches on their guns. The lights were on him.

Soran ran, ignoring the shouting as he rounded the corner. He sprinted along the alley, his heartbeat pounding in his ears. He turned a corner, hoping against hope that they wouldn't follow. A dead end.

Shaking, sweating, Soran turned around slowly. What he saw was not the guards. What he saw was worse.

It was them. Some were taller, some were shorter. Their clothes were worn and dirty, their cheeks pinched, their eyes hard. He would get no mercy from them.

Soran glanced around, hoping to spot something he could use as a weapon. Anything that would improve his chances. He spied what looked like a length of thin pipe, just narrow enough for him to hold.

He dived for it as they charged.

Bismarck approached the scene at a run. Two of the Shah's elite Javidan, clad in red uniforms with black berets, stood at the opening of the alley, rifles aimed down it.

"Report." One of the guards turned and saluted.

"Street kid, Lord Waldstein," the guard replied in Farsi, his native tongue.

"He went down here?" Bismarck asked in the same language.

"Yes, Lord Waldstein." Bismarck stepped past the two guards, ignoring their protests, and headed down the alley. He could hear the sounds of a scuffle up ahead. He halted as a blur flashed across the alley, stopping directly in front of him. His good eye made out a ruffian, a creature of about six years old he estimated by its size. Its matted hair was black, its clothes were torn and filthy. It carried a length of pipe in both hands, with which it struck out at another urchin that came its way.

And its eyes…

Bismarck watched in fascination. The urchins came at the boy from all sides, yet still he fought them. Again and again they struck at him, one with a switchblade, others with broken bottles or whatever else came to hand. He stabbed, swung, kicked at his tormentors, teeth gritted, eyes blazing.

The lines of a poem wandered into his mind.

My good blade carves the casques of men,

My tough lance thrusteth sure,

My strength is as the strength of ten,

Because my heart is pure.

Switchblade finally got lucky. The boy gave a half-hiss, half-wail and staggered backwards, the urchins cautiously gathering around, waiting for him to falter, waiting to make the kill. Switchblade grinned a toothless, feral grin. His hand darted forward to finish his quarry.

The knife flew away into the darkness. The urchins looked up in annoyance at the one who had disturbed them, only for annoyance to turn to fear.

It was tall, with greying black hair cascading down its back, and a short, clipped beard. It wore white, with a long cloak hanging from its shoulders. Its sword was long, and sharp. It had only one eye, the other was sewn shut.

The urchins fled.

Soran stared up at the apparition, even as he felt his strength ebbing. He felt a terrible, stinging pain in his side, but would not let the pipe drop. He stood his ground, even as his legs went cold, aiming the pipe straight at the man with the sword. He felt a wetness in his clothes. They were turning red.

He fell to his knees, the pipe dropping from his hands. Surprise filled his clouding mind as the man knelt down beside him and picked him up. He looked up, through misting eyes, at that face with the one good eye.

"Fear nothing, little one," said Bismarck Waldstein, in Farsi. "You will not die tonight." Soran lost consciousness, wondering as he did who this man was. The last he heard sounded a mere whisper.

"You shall be my son."