A/N: Well, I survived grad school. Only to now face the Greater Daemon Prince of Job Hunting. Oh, and Dark Souls III didn't help matters. But let's focus on happier things, like ten years of Code Geass! And a third season!

Disclaimer: Code Geass and Warhammer 40k? Not mine.

Chapter Thirty-Seven: Licking Wounds

Dark Mechanicum Forge Tender Infirmitas Caris
Orbit of Mars

Having turned from the Emperor's light during the Horus Heresy, the Infirmitas Caris held little in common with its Imperial counterparts. When the ravages of the Warp took their toll, the forge tender's dark masters affected repairs with the one resource they possessed in abundance: discarded flesh. The countless millennia spent within the Eye of Terror thus twisted the once-proud ship into a horrifying amalgam of flesh and metal. While other Goliath-class tenders slaved away maintaining the Despoiler's fleet, the Infirmitas Caris' machine shops and maintenance bays were converted to reverse-engineering labs with one focus: Knightmares.

The screeching of tormented servos, still somehow functional after twenty thousand years, and the accompanying heavy footfalls announced Abaddon's presence. Even the servitors' limited self-preservation protocols knew to scramble for cover as the silhouette of the Despoiler's Terminator armor blotted out the near-nonexistent lighting. Those that proved too sluggish were simply crushed underfoot and left where they lay, littering the halls between the forge tender's main hangar and main labs. Only once the plodding footsteps faded into the distance did the cowering slaves emerge from their hiding places, their fear of Abaddon's wrath overpowered by the fear of their masters'.

Though his eyes burned with purpose and barely-contained rage, the Warmaster of Chaos walked the Infirmitas Caris's halls on autopilot. The Black Knights occupied his thoughts, and even he was forced to privately admit that they were a persistent—even concerning—thorn in his side. He'd seen the recovered picts from Perturabo's assault on the enemy headquarters: once the initial shock wore off, the defenders exacted a heavy toll on the Iron Warriors even as they were steadily beaten back. Anything willing and capable of standing up to a Terminator company merited his attention, and he knew almost nothing about "Nightmares" even after two months of heavy fighting.

"Lord Abaddon," a flat mechanical voice greeted, "You honor me with your presence."

The Tech-Priest standing before him had embraced the corruption to an extent that unnerved even other Dark Mechanicum adepts. Of his mortal body, only a few vital organs suspended inside tanks of amniotic gel remained. Cords of mutated flesh were entwined with cybernetics, writhing silently as though driven by another mind.

"Spare me the flattery," Abaddon ground out, "What have you learned?"

A tendril of flesh emerged from beneath stained robes, snatching a chunk of material off a nearby table and offering it to the Warmaster of Chaos. The Despoiler slowly turned the metal square, roughly four centimeters on each edge, in his hands before closing his fist around it. Only long practice allowed Abaddon to hide his amazement when he saw that the material had only slightly warped.

"The Black Knights call them 'Nightmares.' The outer shell consists of a high-density metallic substance that has proven as resistant to our scanners as it has to weapons fire. Even with lascutters, we have only been able to extract samples with great difficulty. Additionally, recovered picts show that they possess some form of shielding that does not match any known patterns, and our investigations have yet to find anything resembling an emitter."

The front of the Tech-Priest's robes opened, and a dozen fleshy tentacles and mechadendrites emerged from the darkness. One plucked the metal square from Abaddon's grip while the others busily worked the nearby logic engine. Monitors descended from the ceiling, displaying everything from recovered picts to a live feed of the servitors busily cutting open an intact specimen.

"The armor is not very thick—three to four centimeters at most—but the sloping makes it difficult to penetrate with anything other than direct hits or heavy weaponry," the main monitor changed to a six-second loop of Knightmares weaving through stubber fire, "Their main advantage appears to be their speed and maneuverability, and both are far higher than their mass suggests."

The Tech-Priest motioned towards the armored shutters at the far end of the room as the main display switched to a live feed of the procedure within. One of the "Nightmares" lay upon a metal slab, its limbs securely shackled to the surface as a lascutter slowly sliced away at its shell.

"From the sheer number encountered in Mars, we have concluded that this pattern serves as a foot soldier in the Black Knights forces. We know of a second variant serving as shock infantry, but we have yet to recover any intact specimens," the Dark Mechanicum adept droned on as the servitors slowly pried apart the metal titan's bisected chest armor, "The inner layer consists of a solid sheathe of rigid crystalline material, and we have yet to discern the composition or functionality."

The lascutters withdrew, allowing a buzzsaw access to the specimen.

"Conventional cutting implements are able to penetrate it, though our last few attempts revealed a rather effective self-anni…"

A dull whump reached the observers as the main display dissolved into static.

"The Black Knights also field three unique variants," the Tech-Priest switched gears without missing a beat, replacing the static with picts of the Guren, "The crimson 'Nightmare' was first sighted during the assault on Craftworld Altansar. Its primary weapon appears to be a rad-cleanser, though not even original STC relics exhibit its demonstrated range and effectiveness against heavy armor…"

Black Knights Space Station Ikaruga
Orbit of Terra

As a long-serving Raider, Karen Schneider had weathered many an interrogation by Intelligence operatives. The infamously dour and humorless men and women had left no stone unturned as they set out to verify her identity. Every detail of her account was thoroughly scrutinized for the smallest of inconsistencies, and near-forgotten details of her life were repeatedly dredged up in hopes of catching her in a lie. Eventually, even the most stubborn of operatives assigned to her case were eventually convinced of her identity, and the interrogations abruptly switched in tone.

From what few scraps of information she was allowed, Intelligence had already taken to calling her mission report the "Necron Codex." So much of what the Fleet thought it understood about the Necrons was just plain wrong, and hundreds were assigned the unenviable duty of updating millions of intelligence files and briefing dossiers.

The quarters provided to the Tulun delegation were spartan but adequate. What little furniture they had was shoved off to the side, its current occupants content with an empty corner to stand in when entering low-awareness mode. The two Lychguards were stripped of their weapons and armor, the skeleton-like bodyguards passing their time with unarmed combat drills. Moving with a grace not normally associated with their species, their routines were more a silent conversation than an actual spar. They taught Karen the basics, and she in return instructed them in the hand-to-hand style she had used to such great effectiveness on Mars.

When he was not attending meetings with the Black Knights leadership, Menkhetaruk knelt in a cleared-out corner of the room. He surrendered his arms and armor, though with the stipulation that he oversee their storage and retrieval, every time he re-entered their lodgings. One of their guards had procured an old dataslate for him, and he alternated between studying what few databases he was allowed access to and penning what Karen guessed was an epic poem. The Lieutenant's grasp on the runic language's grammar and syntax were rudimentary at best, though it still allowed for the decoding of many previously-untranslatable documents.

Though Lieutenant Karen Schneider had no doubt that some unfortunate Fleet Intelligence task force was currently reading orders to recover and translate as much Necron poetry as possible, the Raider knew her interrogators were far more interested in the workings of her new body. Contrary to common belief, her new senses were far from rudimentary: the simulacrum was a little too good. To keep the flood of information driving her and her newfound Necron peers insane, mental filters held them in a dreamlike state. She both inhabited and remotely controlled her body, simultaneously seeing the world through her own eyes and as some nearby unseen observer. In the days following her biotransference, even standing up proved a titanic struggle.

Karen's interrogators especially struggled to wrap their heads around the concept of a low-awareness mode, the Necron analogue to sleep. The senses of her living metal body were completely shut down, and her consciousness drifted in a comfortable void. Yet, the nodal command network simultaneously streamed information about her surroundings through her mind. She could neither feel the slight vibration of deck plates nor see the door slide open, yet she knew that General Kozuki had just stepped into the room. Slowly, her consciousness emerged from the darkness.

"Empress Kallen vi Britannia," Menkhetaruk greeted, "I take it this is not a social visit."

The Raider Lieutenant had never heard the General addressed as such, but she mentally immortalized the image of the normally-unflappable redhead momentarily reduced to a blushing, sputtering teenager. The Phaeron's laugh would have sounded sinister to the unaccustomed observer.

"Still too easy."

"Right," Kallen recomposed herself, "I've come for Lieutenant Schneider, actually."

Even with her Knightmare-sized strides, the Raider struggled to keep pace with General Kozuki. A quartet of stony-faced bodyguards surrounded the pair, and Karen identified them as Psychic Special Warfare operatives only due to their signature daggers. Troop formations moved to the side and gaggles of technicians parted to let the group pass. They petite redhead led the party through a labyrinth of twisting corridors punctuated by increasingly-lengthy rides on the high-speed linear train network. People grew fewer and further in between and checkpoints became increasingly frequent and heavily-armed with each station.

Karen quickly noticed that Kallen had not stopped even once to consult a map, and she moved too fast for the Lieutenant to fully orient herself. She could tell that they were moving deeper into the Ikaryga: the linear trains became faster and more comfortable, clearly designed for increasingly longer trips. Their journey finally ended aboard a make of linear train Karen had only seen once before. Designed for transport between the sixteen "petals"—a journey spanning over eight hours and two thousand kilometers if from tip to tip and without stops—that made up the Ikaruga's structure, they were the rarest and fastest model for obvious reasons.

"He doesn't like that name very much," Kallen offhandedly remarked as they sat down, finally breaking the oppressive silence.

Karen's new face lacked the ability to raise a curious eyebrow—or, indeed, eyebrows at all—but the tilt of her head conveyed her curiosity well enough. It took several moments to figure out who "he" was.

"It's a relic of a bygone age, one predating the Imperium itself," the redhead leaned back into her seat and closed her eyes, "There was a time when an empire that spanned a third of Terra seemed impossible to bring down. We would've been wiped out if Zero didn't intervene. It took him less than two years to take a dozen guerillas with one obsolete Knightmare and forge us into the official military of forty-seven nations."

The mere thought of how long ago such events must have occurred boggled Karen's mind. To the Black Knights, their leaders had neither beginning nor end. They simply were. The birth dates of the quadrumvirate were so long ago as to be irrelevant even if any records of them still existed. Yet, the tone of Kallen's voice told the Lieutenant that she was telling a tale of her youth.

"I cast aside many things long before I first donned the mask of Zero, the vi Britannia name being one of the first."

Zero casually lounged in the seat beside Karen, his cape lazily tossed over the seatback and the famous mask held in his hands. The first coherent thought through the Lieutenant's mind regarded just how wrong the Imperial depictions of their own Emperor were.

"You've put us in a difficult position, Lieutenant Schneider," Lelouch hung his mask off a nearby armrest, "Nobody doubts your skill and experience, but your new body simply will not be able to carry out most of the Raiders' mission capabilities."

Karen needed no further elaboration. Though her new body resembled a Knightmare, she possessed only a fraction of the agility she was accustomed to. She had also fought enough Necrons to know that the merest touch of the Warp was anathema to them.

"Fortunately, Menkhetaruk has proposed a mutually-beneficial solution. He wishes to form an elite training cadre, helmed by a Raider, to drill his soldiers in irregular warfare and guerilla tactics. In turn, we believe that the new pact would be better served if a Black Knights emissary were embedded directly into the Tulun court."

"You have an understanding of how Necrons think far beyond what any of us could achieve. Should you accept your new orders, you will be made a minor noble in Menkhetaruk's court," Kallen picked up where Lelouch left off, "You will serve as our diplomatic liaison with the Tulun Dynasty, and your words will carry just as much weight as any of ours."

A blanket of silence fell, stretching seconds into seeming eternities. Finally, Karen nodded.

Chaos Battleship Chaos Ascendant
Orbit of Mars

Though the Basilikon Astra's surprise attack had inflicted staggering casualties, they were gradually pushed back following the initial hammerblows. Despite representing the bulk of the Mechanicum's remaining space assets, they were still heavily outnumbered and outgunned by the Despoiler's forces around Mars. The escorts hid amongst the wreckage of destroyed warships and dock facilities, darting out to strike targets of opportunity and fleeing before the Chaos ships could return fire. Meanwhile, the capital ships had retreated into the shoal zone surrounding Mars, forcing their opponents to hunt for them via visual scouting and short-range directed auger scans.

With the orbital battle reduced to guerilla strikes and occasional flashpoints, Abaddon had taken a step back from commanding the fleets to focus on repairing the Chaos Ascendant and attempting to breach the Warp-spawned blockade. The past few days, the Champion of Chaos Undivided mused, was the longest stretch in recent memory where he had not had to replace a single member of his bridge crew.

"My lord," a Champion of Nurgle wheezed as he knelt before the command throne, "We have successfully established communication with our forces beyond the shoal zone. All future reinforcements will be diverted to the new staging points."

The pus-bloated Chaos Space Marine carefully left out just how many failed rituals had taken place beforehand.

"Good. Allow them seventy-two hours to mass a reserve, then have one-fifth of all subsequent reinforcements diverted to the old staging areas," the Despoiler rumbled.

Though information only trickled through the shoal zone, Abaddon knew that a majority of Terra's defenses were oriented towards Mars and the corrupted portal that was Craftworld Altansar. With a little luck, the Death Guard would arrive and open a second front before the Imperium caught on.

"Yes, my lord."

Tharsis Region
Surface of Mars

Though the scale of their machines obviously differed, the Princeps and Moderatii of the Collegia Titanica held an understanding of the bond between operator and Knightmare second only to the Space Marines. Unsurprisingly, an unusual bond developed between the Titan legions and the Black Knights in the days following first contact.

One such god-machine, the Warlord-class Titan Malleus Iustitiae, strode fearlessly across the battlefield of Tharsis as its void shields strained under the fierce assault of Necron super-heavy artillery. The Warhound escorts broke formation, trampling vast swathes of the Void Dragon's forces as they bounded for the offending Doomsday Arks in the rear. Volleys of Gauss and Tesla fire, impeccably disciplined despite a hail of bolter shells chewing through their ranks, harmlessly splashed against their shields as they demolished the Necron artillery with repeated plasma blasts.

"Princeps, enemy Titan closing at three o'clock!"

Forcing the Void Dragon's forces into close quarters had briefly turned the battle in the Tulun legionaries' favor, but superior numbers and the arrival of three freshly-awakened legions trumped training and discipline in the end. The intervention of Mechanicum forces had restarted the battle, which quickly devolved into a three-way melee with the arrival of Chaos troops. Pockets of Tulun soldiers fought back-to-back, annihilating Necrons, daemons, and cultists alike with disciplined volleys as Mechanicum forces waded through the hordes of flesh and metal to reach the monstrous serpentine form of Mag'ladroth.

Princeps Denis Utkin had scant seconds to react, the sudden twisting of his neck mirrored by his Titan as he turned to face a fast-moving mound of disturbed soil. A flanking Reaver Titan saturated the area with explosive shells and melta blasts in an attempt to force the machine to surface, but the action only succeeded in making it alter course. A many-segmented construct of living metal broke through the surface, effortlessly shrugging off weapons fire from the Reaver and the Malleus Iustitiae as it latched on to the doomed Titan.

"Leave them! There is nothing we can do for them!"

Denis didn't need the Mind Impulse Unit to feel numb horror emanating from his Moderati as the Tomb Stalker ripped into the Reaver's armor with fractal-edged blades and point-blank Gauss blasts. The thing's body wrapped around its victim, crushing its rapidly-failing armor and dragging the war machine back below the red sand. The vox link mercifully cut out seconds later, sparing them from any more of the crew's death screams.

"Princeps, the Tomb Stalker is coming around for another pass!"

"Don't let it latch on to the hull! We can still carry out the mission with the shoulder cannons!"

The Tomb Stalker emerged from the ground again, arcing through the air as the Malleus Iustitiae rotated at the waist to intercept its bite. With a crunch and the squealing of tortured metal giving way, the Warlord's laser blaster was rendered useless. Its power fist swung up, grabbing its opponent's serpentine body as it moved to crush the hull. Crackling energy fields disintegrated living metal layer by layer, and the Malleus Iustitiae began squeezing. The Necron construct's flailing briefly intensified, then quickly weakened as control circuits and power conduits were severed.

"Signal the surrounding units! Get this thing off of us! Take out our arm if they have to!"

The Tomb Stalker's rear half crashed to the ground, flopping weakly as residual control signals pulsed one final time. A hail of plasma blasts, explosive shells, and laser bolts punched giant holes in the construct as more precise fire blasted the war machine's severed head off the Malleus Iustitae. Part of the Titan's laser blaster vanished with it, but the Princeps paid the loss of so much priceless technology no mind.

"All units, fall in!"

As the Warhounds forged ahead screening their larger counterparts from Necron counterattacks, the Malleus Iustitiae plodded forward to join a firing line of Reaver- and Warlord-class Titans. Their collective heads turned to the no-holds-barred struggle between Lord Amenhokhmet and the C'tan Mag'ladroth. Mortal men would have long since collapsed from exhaustion, but the combatants' tireless living metal bodies had allowed them to fight for days on end. When—five days into their melee—the Void Dragon's body had sufficiently recovered to allow it to launch another assault on the forces below with its arcane powers, the Tulun commander produced another tesseract containment vessel and unleashed it with little regard for his own safety. Though his body survived, Lord Amenhokhmet was no more: the damage to his body erased his muddled and confused memories, leaving only a singular drive to slay the best before him.

"Princeps, the Gladio Imperatoris is in position and is requesting command-level access to our targeting network!"

Coming in behind the Malleus Iustitiae and its wingmen were some of the rarest and most valuable artifacts in the entire Imperium: a quartet of Emperor-class Titans led by the Warmonger-pattern Gladio Imperatoris. Its powerful targeting engines, rumored to be a relic of the fabled Great Crusade, effortlessly calculated firing solutions for dozens of Titans to a precision their crews could not even dream of.

"Firing solutions uploaded and locked! All units, open fire and bring that monster down! For the Emperor!"

The unleashed energy of numerous Titan-scale weapons discharges was detectable even from high orbit.

Britannia Hive
Holy Terra

Compared to the barely-contained chaos in the hives surrounding the Imperial Palace, the evacuation of the Britannia hive proved surprisingly orderly. The area's high-speed rail network, most of it constructed during the Dark Age of Technology, had withstood the ravages of time quite well and required only minimal effort from the Tech-Priests to reactivate. Within days, supersonic trains ferried Imperial citizens to the Palace by the thousands, to the point that the Custodes' ability to process the new arrivals—rather than transport capacity—became their limiting factor.

Located on the opposite hemisphere of Terra, and thus the furthest from the Imperial Palace's command networks, the Britannia hive became the site of Primarch Vulkan's and Canoness Superior Domitia Cloelia's field headquarters. The additional communications lines were a welcome boon when evacuation efforts in the surrounding hives proved much more difficult. In the centuries following the Horus Heresy, the Tech-Priests made several ill-fated attempts to expand the rail network. Limited understanding of the technology led to substandard parts and construction and the shoddy tunnels had collapsed over the millennia, simultaneously rendering Imperial forces' maps of the networks useless and blocking many otherwise-usable lines.

Additionally, the citizens' mistrust of Space Marines greatly hampered loading what few trains the surrounding hives were able to send out. In some places, tensions had flared into violence and rabble militias armed themselves with anything they could find and attacked Astartes. The Salamanders initially shrugged off such assaults, their assailants oftentimes armed with makeshift melee weapons and explosives with a handful of autoguns and the occasional obsolete lasgun.

"Domitia," Vulkan suddenly spoke up, having developed enough of a rapport with the Canoness Superior that the two dropped all pretense of ceremony when alone, "Have your convent's texts ever mentioned that the Emperor once had his capital here?"

The Sororitas looked up from her dataslate to meet the Primarch's gaze, her curiosity piqued. She knew that her counterpart was only sharing the information to take her mind off the latest report. A now-commonplace riot in one of the northern hives had taken a turn for the worse when one of the citizens scavenged an archeotech weapon that proved very effective against Astartes plate, as evidenced when a shot drilled straight through a Salamander's helmet when a squad moved in to confiscate the weapon and detain the wielder. The crowd had turned on the Sisters as well when they attempted to restore order, and the ensuing bloodbath left two Space Marines, a dozen Sororitas, and hundreds of civilians dead. She nearly dropped her dataslate when the report arrived, and she welcomed the distraction Vulkan offered.

"My father said it was called Pendragon," he continued, "A fortress-city designed to be unassailable by their enemies while demonstrating their dominance over nature itself. It was surrounded by desert for kilometers around, yet its gardens and lakes were second to none. Even the weather above the city was carefully controlled."

"What happened to it?" the Canoness asked after a brief pause, her mind reeling at the thought of how long ago Pendragon must have existed if it was surrounded by open land.

"There was a war not long after," Vulkan was clearly privy to only the sketchiest of details, "One of his brothers levelled the city with atomic weaponry."

Silence settled over the pair, broken only when reports arrived of another wave of trains departing for the Palace.

Adeptus Mechanicus Bomber Chi-Theta Three
Orbit of Mars

Their long-range sensors and communications blinded by the Warp's fury, the forces clashing within the shoal zone adapted the tactics of their atmosphere-bound counterparts. Capital ships practically piled atop one another, exchanging fire from as little as one hundred kilometers out, while attack craft exchanged missiles a mere thirty kilometers apart before rushing into vicious close-quarters dogfights. Casualties were heavy on both sides, though combat losses were dwarfed by losses to the Warp's ever-changing nature: shoals could form or disappear in a matter of seconds, and for every time the Basilikon Astra met the Despoiler's forces in battle, a dozen fleets on both sides were lost on their way to the front line.

Kale Orellana awoke to the familiar unpleasantness of stimulants coursing through his bloodstream as he was awoken from a light stasis. A well-practiced sequence of flipped switches and thrown levers woke the slumbering bomber, and nonessential systems flickered to life one at a time as the Starhawk's plasma reactor came out of standby mode. As his ship's logic engines ran through startup diagnostics, Kale looked to his right and gave his stirring copilot a quick shake, jolting the older man out of his chemically-induced haze.

"Contact on auger. Looks like a formation of eighteen centered around a cruiser."

Heavy footfalls echoed behind the pair as the onboard Tech-Priest and logistics officer took stock of the Starhawk's munitions. The sound of power cells sliding across deck plating, accompanied by grunts and the click of turrets unlocking signaled that the gunners had also awoken. Squadron Chi-Theta's vox channel was abuzz with activity as bomber crews issued status reports and received their targets. The entirety of Chi-Theta Three's crew had survived stasis, making them one of the lucky ones. One bomber didn't respond at all to hails, and another two lacked the flight crew to carry out their mission.

"Chi-Theta Five will launch an attack on the Chaos cruiser, with Chi-Theta Three and Chi-Theta Six providing screening for its torpedoes."

As Abaddon's fleet commanders learned at a steep price, annihilating the local Mechanicum defenders did not necessarily guarantee their ships unmolested passage. In the confusion of a rout, squadrons of bombers could slip in amidst the wreckage of ships and defense stations. Their plasma reactor supplying just enough power to operate essential systems and their crews placed in chemically-induced stasis, they were virtually invisible to auger sweeps and bio-scanners. A combination of surprise and massive barrages of anti-starship munitions launched at point-blank ranges allowed even a few dozen bombers to cripple entire squadrons of capital ships.

"Chaff depleted! Flares at 8% capacity!"

Kale's teeth rattled as flak shells detonated close enough to shake the entire bomber. The Starhawk's primitive countermeasures were nearly useless against the enemy cruiser's powerful auger arrays, and the bulk of incoming anti-starfighter fire consisted of dumbfire shells anyway, but they were more than sufficient to send the escorts' guided missiles veering wildly off-target. The tiny gaps in coverage were all Chi-Theta Three and its wingmen needed to slip through.

"This is Chi-Theta Five! Torpedoes away!"

"Fire missiles! Empty the racks!"

Whereas capital ships could fire repeated torpedo barrages to break through enemy point defenses, a Starhawk bomber only carried a single volley. The dozens of armor-piercing missiles launched by Chi-Theta Three and Six were not expected to hit the cruiser, only to overwhelm enemy point-defense gunners with the sheer number of targets and to soak up incoming fire.

"Enemy interceptors closing in!"

"Racks are empty, breaking off attack run!"

As they banked away, Kale and his crew watched the auger display with bated breath as the torpedoes approached their target. The cloud of faint contacts that was their missile volley thinned as enemy gunners desperately tried to intercept the incoming warheads. One by one, the torpedoes disappeared from the monitor.

"Chi-Theta Three to all units: all torpedoes confirmed on-target! Enemy cruiser crippled!"

Losing not only a large portion of their firepower but also their coordination and command, the rest of the Chaos fleet fell into disarray moments later. Attack runs crippled another three escorts before the Mechancium response fleet arrived. Volley after volley of torpedoes tore through the enemy fleet formations, and the broadsides of a Lunar-class cruiser destroyed yet more ships as they scrambled to retreat.

The surviving crews of Chi-Theta squadron retreated into the friendly fleet's defense perimeter, making a beeline for the pair of Defiant-class light cruisers hanging in the back. They would have however long it took to rearm their Starhawks and relocate to a new ambush zone to rest and grab a tray of whatever the mess hall was attempting to pass off as hot food that day.

C's World
The Warp

Nunnally Lamperouge had seen C's World in visions numerous times but had only physically visited the realm once before, shortly after her death during the Battle of Pendragon. Having seized the chance to resurrect and finally be able to fight alongside her older brother, she was one of the few burdened with the terrible secret of the Special Administrative Zone.

Nunnally's body manifested a meter above the ground with a flash of psychic energy, and she slowly glided down for a landing. The back of her mind noted the destruction surrounding her, but her gaze remained locked on the kneeling figure before her. She could sense Euphemia's inner turmoil, the very air growing ever heavier with each step forward.

"I take it you've figured it out?" the Guardian asked without moving even a millimeter.

"I had my suspicions," Nunnally answered as she reached the landing, "Truth be told, I think I figured it out after the birth of Slaanesh."

"And yet you did nothing?" Euphemia spared a glance backwards.

"There was no need to," the brunette shook her head, "Any confrontation would have taken place here in C's World, and our goals seemed to align."

"He still blames himself for that day," they both spoke at once, and Nunnally fell silent to let the pink-haired Warp entity continue.

"He is neither Lelouch nor the Emperor right now. The many pieces of his psyche are gathered but he is far from whole," Euphemia concluded, "And I fear that, when the time comes to battle Abaddon, he will not have the strength needed to do what he must to win."

"And you won't be able to-"

"If you know what I am, then you know what it would mean if I were to intervene directly," the Guardian interrupted, "And if I must do so, then the battle for humanity's soul may already be lost."

A/N: When I started this project, I never thought I would ever type the term "Necron poetry." Also, yes, Menkhetaruk is a little bit of a troll. He once reduced CC to the level of a sputtering, blushing schoolgirl and would have totally carved the tale into his battle honors if tradition allowed him to.

On a more serious note, I estimate this story will end up clocking in around 75-80 chapters, judging from my outlines. I am fairly certain something like the Metal Monsters arc (which, fun fact, was only a half-dozen bullet points in my outlines) won't occur again.