Hello, folks! Comin' at ya with Side Story 7! This Side Story, along with the next one that I put out (which should be done fairly soonish, fingers crossed) takes place during the time skip in between chapters 33 and 34. It's a very important time, really- It's the time it takes the Black Knights to gain a foothold, and start actually, openly fighting Britannia, and also, as we'll see here, for the Knights of the Round to settle into their own as an arm of the Britannian Empire.

Suzaku has already had one side story, and I fully expect him to have more. It may seem like a waste, since there are so many other characters we could cover, but it's important that Code Geass was originally a show with two main characters, not just one. Armed Resistance is first person- there is no room for a second main character there. But Suzaku is still an incredibly important character, and without the Side Stories, we wouldn't learn about all the cool stuff he gets into when he's not face-to-face with Lelouch.

Personally, I didn't like Suzaku in the anime. He is one of several characters that I just didn't care too much for. But there are two things about writing a character for your fanfic- one, you come to understand them better, and two, you can tweak them into a character that you enjoy more, haha. The difficulty lies in doing so without losing what made that character unique, and I'll be the first to admit that I have screwed that up on occasion. If I do that here, you let me know, and I'll change it. I don't wanna misrepresent nobody.

Hrm. Not much else to say. Enjoy Side Story 7- and if you haven't, go check out Chapter 35, the newest addition to the main storyline!

Suzaku Kururugi - Shortly Prior to Chapter 34

"Suzaku," said Cecile softly. Suzaku blinked, and looked up. "You were miles away, Suzaku."

"Area Six, to be specific," mumbled Suzaku, still looking distant. He shook his head. "I'm sorry, Ms. Cecile. We've been here before, haven't we? Deja vu." He gave her a weak smile. The scientist smiled as well, but the smile was not nearly as bright as it was a handful of months ago. She misses Lloyd, whether she'll admit it or not, thought Suzaku sadly.

"That we have," agreed Cecile. "But that was a long time ago... or, at least, it feels like a long time ago," she amended. "I suppose it's only been a few months, hasn't it? A few months, and everything's changed." She paused, and tugged at her collar, smiling apologetically. "Look at me, waxing nostalgic when there's work to be done. I just wanted to let you know that we've finished repairs on the Lancelot. You can get going whenever you like."

"And try not to jump on any bombs this time!" interjected a jeering voice. An orange-haired man with a cape and a sneer stepped forward, shaking his head. "I still can't figure what you were thinking."

Suzaku's eyes narrowed slightly. "I don't expect you to, Bradley. I was trying to protect those people. If the Lancelot hadn't shielded them from that bomb, they would have all been killed."

Luciano Bradley, Knight of Ten, shook his head disappointedly. "You say it like that's a bad thing, Suzaku. They were rebels, their lives were worth less than nothing-"

"They were people who had made an honest mistake, and then surrendered, Bradley," interrupted Suzaku sharply. "And that's Kururugi, Knight of Ten- I don't want a butcher like you referring to me in the familiar."

Luciano's eyes narrowed. "Look at the little Number mouthing off... I don't give a shit if you're Knight of Seven, the only number about you that matters is Eleven. Watch your tongue around a pure blood, you little brat."

There was a moment of tense silence, with just the two Knights staring each other down, and then Luciano spat on the ground, and then turned and walked away. After another long moment, Cecile finally asked, "Suzaku, what was that? That wasn't... you."

Suzaku sighed tiredly. "I'm sorry about that, Cecile... there's just something about that man I just can't stand," he answered quietly. "He sets me off like no one else. He's just... I don't know." He shook his head. "I've always believed that everyone has a legitimate point of view... that everyone has their reasons for acting the way they do. But I don't think, in a million years, I could understand his." That... and Lelouch is right. I'm getting... angrier, and I don't know why.

"He certainly is a very unpleasant man to work with," sighed Cecile. "He makes the most unreasonable demands for his Knightmare. FLOAT System, Hadron cannons, and an offensive Blaze Luminous all on one Frame? Does he know what the phrase 'power supply' means?" She shook her head. "I'm sorry, now I'm getting off topic again. I better get back to work."

Me too, thought Suzaku as he watched Cecile walk away. Back to the job of a Knight of the Round. The job he'd done in Area Six... alongside that scum Luciano Bradley. There had been a rebellion there- a group of dissidents inspired by the Black Knights, determined to win their own freedom. In a way, Suzaku could respect that. But he was the Knight of Seven. He had a job to do, and he did it. And Luciano made sure there were no survivors. It had been a brief suppression. The rebels had assumed that Britannia's strength would be tied up dealing with Area Eleven, and they had been terribly wrong. Britannia could never tie up its forces with one conflict- the moment they did, the Chinese Federation or the European Union (or both- they certainly hated Britannia enough to ally briefly) would strike. So the majority of Britannia's forces were always on standby.

With the rebellion suppressed, it was time for the Knights of the Round to decide what to do next, and thus they were having their second ever meeting. Suzaku wasn't sure how to feel about the meeting himself. Most of the members, he was on amicable terms with, not that he'd spent too much time with them. Ten and Twelve, though, he didn't trust for a second, and he wasn't the only one. How they ever became Rounds is beyond me, he thought, though in truth, it wasn't really beyond him. It was down to politics.

There were four members of the royal family who were directly backing the Knights of the Round's revival- Prince Schneizel, Princess Cornelia, Princess Karine, and, to everyone's great surprise, Princess Euphemia. Euphemia backed the Knights because of their symbolic power- given the amount of military force that each Knight represented, they worked as very effective negotiating tools. Send a Knight as a diplomat, and it was certain that the other party would take them seriously. The other three backed it simply because they wanted to empower excellent pilots.

Part of the terms of the formation of the Knights was that each one would be backed by one of the four- with Schneizel, Cornelia, Karine, and Euphemia each getting three Knights to their name. It was a way to keep one prince or princess from having too much influence over the Knights, but what it led to was faction politics. Suzaku had expected to be put forward by Euphemia, but in fact Cornelia had insisted that he be one of her Knights, and Euphemia, while surprised by this, agreed.

Euphemia had backed the Knights of Nine, Eight, and Six- Alfred, Bart, and David Dalton, formerly of the Glaston Knights. Cornelia had backed Seven, Five, and Two- Suzaku, a young and friendly noble named Gino Weinberg, and Nonette Enneagram, a woman whose skill and professionalism put her miles above all others, and a personal mentor to Cornelia.

Karine backed Ten, Four, and One- Luciano Bradley, Oscar de Britannia, a Prince so low on the order of succession that Suzaku honestly didn't remember where that was, and Bismarck Waldstein, an ace pilot with the rare attribute of actually disliking violence- perhaps a strange pick for the war-crazy princess, but his record spoke for itself. And Schneizel, the man who created the project in the first place, chose to back the Knights of Twelve, Eleven, and Three. Eleven and Three were no problem- Three was a man from Area One by the name of Aaron Reynolds and the only other Number on the Knights, and Eleven was Monica Kruszewski, a promising young pilot with good instincts, but little experience.

The real problem was the Knight of Twelve... a girl by the name of Alice Carroll. She was a pureblooded Britannian, an expert pilot, a skilled intelligence gatherer and an outspoken woman... and incidentally a former member of the Outer Circle, who was sentenced to death as a traitor before Schneizel got her pardoned, and made her a Knight of the Round.

All the other appointments, though some were strange, were understandable- you could look at them and really believe that it was an attempt to make the best team of pilots in the world. But when you saw Alice, that all fell apart. She was obviously, obviously, part of some plan Schneizel had going. No one had any idea what, but it was making everyone incredibly nervous, and this added to the factionalism of the organization. Knights began to whisper behind each other's backs, forming little cliques around whose Knight they were. It wasn't a big deal yet, but it was getting there, and they could all sense that if something didn't change, one day they would be at each other's throats.

Suzaku couldn't stand it. It all seemed like petty nonsense to him, distracting from the larger goal of protecting the Empire. He didn't trust Luciano or Alice, to be certain, but that lack of trust did not extend beyond mere suspicion. They made him uneasy, but he wasn't foolish enough to act on mere unease. If only others followed suit, but they did not.

He sighed. Sitting here and thinking about everything that's going to be bad in this meeting isn't helping... I suppose I should get going, he thought, and rose to his feet. This was going to be fun.

"Reynolds-san! Reynolds-san, let him go!" exclaimed Suzaku, attempting to restrain the six-and-a-half foot tall man. Even with his martial arts talents, holding back the Knight of Three was a bit more than he could handle.

"Just give me a few more seconds, Suzaku..." snarled the man, pressing his thumbs ever harder against the throat of the Knight of Four, Prince Oscar de Britannia. The prince's face was sheet white as he gasped fruitlessly for air, and pawed desperately at the hands of the man choking him.

"Aaron! Stop! Now!" barked Nonette, Knight of Two, and with a glance at the woman, Aaron let go of Oscar's throat, and gave the prince a shove, sending him stumbling away.

Oscar coughed and gasped for air, and then shuddered. "I..." he mumbled, disoriented. "I... how dare you. How dare you do that to me?"

"He's your superior officer, Oscar, and though you may be a prince, you're a pretty low ranking one. Any and all Knights of the Round how more authority than a prince of your stature. So he had every right to rough you up... especially after what you said to him," noted Nonette. "A barely royal brat like you needs to learn that not everyone moves at your beck and call."

"But he choked me!" exclaimed Oscar, furious.

Suzaku cleared his throat uncomfortably. "What he did was wrong... but you don't really get to call a superior officer a 'low-born oaf' and threaten to have his mother thrown in jail," said Suzaku, not meeting the prince's eyes. And that wasn't the worst of what he said, either. Reynolds-san shouldn't have attacked him, but... well, I'm not sure I would be able to control myself after all he said either.

The prince opened his mouth angrily, shut it, and then stalked to his seat, and sat down. Aaron stared at him for a few more moments, and then turned, and sank into his own chair. "Okay, now that we've all got that out of our systems, can we get started?" asked Alfred Dalton, shaking his head. "The meeting should have started five minutes ago."

"Alfred is right," said Bismarck Waldstein, speaking for the first time since they'd all entered the room. "As Knight of One, I hereby call this meeting of Merlin and the Knights of the Round to order. This meeting has been called to reassign Knights in the defense of our empire, and to ascertain the readiness of the Knights as a whole. First to speak will be Merlin's head of research, Cecile Croomy. Ms. Croomy?"

Cecile nodded at Bismarck. "Thank you. As you all are aware, Merlin is tasked with creating and maintaining Knightmares for the Knights of the Round-"

"And if we're 'all aware,' then why are we wasting our time talking about it?" interrupted Luciano. "This meeting is going to be long enough without us constantly restating things that everyone knows."

"Minutes are kept of these meetings, Mr. Bradley," answered Bismarck gravely. "The records of what is said must be understandable even to those not familiar with our organizations."

"Make them do their damn homework before they can access the records!" snapped Luciano. Bismarck opened his mouth to reply, but Luciano waved him into silence. "Heh, whatever. Do what you gotta. Gonna be a looong meeting though."

Cecile waited a moment to be certain that they were done talking, and then begun anew. "As Merlin is in charge of your Knightmares, we are the ones who must insure your superiority on the battlefield- creating unique, custom Frames to suit each of your needs. The Frames for the Knights of Eleven, Nine, and Eight are not yet complete, but other than them, I wanted to check to see if you had any concerns about your Frames that we could look into- requests, design oversights, things like that. Knight of One?"

Bismarck thought a moment before answering. "The response rate is good, but if it were possible to boost it, that would be advantageous. It can be slightly sluggish in close combat. Better than any Frame I've yet used, but... there is room for improvement."

The blue-haired woman nodded. "We'll see what we can do. Knight of Two?"

Nonette Enneagram frowned. "No complaints. I'm very pleased with mine."

"Thank you. Knight of Three?"

Aaron Reynolds shrugged casually. "It's a beast of a machine, I don't want to sound ungrateful. It really takes 'em apart. But the machine gun could stand to use a little more penetration. It tends to plink off any thick armor."

"That shouldn't be too much of a problem... Knight of Four?" Oscar, still in foul spirits, waved dismissively. "Let the record show that the Knight of Four has waved to indicate that he has no comment. Knight of Five?"

Gino smiled at Cecile warmly. "It's great, Cecile. Better than I could have hoped."

Cecile smiled back. "I'm very glad to hear that, Gino. Knight of Six?"

David Dalton shook his head. "It's very good, I've got no complaints," he said quietly. Suzaku frowned slightly. David was a good man, but he always seemed so out of place- likely because he felt out of place. His brothers and he made up the Glaston Knights, an elite Knightmare pilot team. They were scouted for the Knights of the Round as neutral parties- in a list full of politically charged choices, they were inoffensive. Despite that, he was the Knight of Six, while his brothers were Eight and Nine. He was the most skilled of the brothers, and he felt awkward about being recognized as such.

"Very good. Knight of Seven?"

Suzaku smiled. "The Lancelot is great, Ms. Cecile."

"Knight of Ten?" asked Cecile, closing her eyes in dread.

Luciano Bradley narrowed his eyes. "Where should I begin?" he asked, and stood slowly. "The armaments are insufficient in power, are too few, it's not fast enough, it's not well armored enough, it-"

"Shut. Up," intoned Aaron Reynolds, Knight of Three. There was a moment of tense silence as he and Luciano locked gazes, and then Luciano backed down.

"I suppose it is sufficient to the task, if barely," he sneered, and sat back down.

"Knight of Twelve?" asked Cecile.

All eyes turned to Alice Carroll, who grinned at the attention. "It's quite the machine... I think I'm quite happy with it, thank you," she answered.

"Thank you," replied Cecile. "And with that done, Merlin has no further business, so I will depart." Suzaku could tell, watching her, that she was quite eager to leave, and he could hardly blame her. He rather wanted to leave himself. Luciano, of course, disgusted him, but he didn't like Oscar de Britannia or Alice very much either. Oscar was arrogant and superior without having earned anyone's respect, and Alice... she was just so unrepentant. He really didn't understand why she'd been made a Knight.

After she had left, there was a moment's silence, and then Aaron said, "Alright, let's get to planning." He leaned forward, resting his arms on the table. "So we've all finished up our assignments, or at least to the point that the regular army can take over. The way I see it, we have three big problems facing Britannia right now.

"One, the European Union. They're getting really ballsy, taking all kinds of chances, pushing our buttons. They're getting ready for war, it looks like... they think we're weak, and they're getting ready to hit us. We need a least a couple Knights putting them in their place.

"Two, the Chinese Federation. They've got a whole new fuckin' government over there, and unlike the old one, it's not content to just watch the world. I don't know what these guys are gonna do, I don't think anyone knows. So we need some Knights watching them.

"And three... Area Eleven, more specifically the Black Knights. They're a problem. They're getting big, real big, they're powerful and brave enough to openly fight our forces, and when they do so, they're doing it on their terms, and they're winning. We need to come down on them like a hammer, and stop them dead."

"A few Sutherlands would come down on them 'like a hammer'," sneered Luciano. "They're not worth sending a handful of Knights after. I will handle them myself."

Aaron frowned. "They drove back the Knight of Seven on several occasions, Luciano. You would be wise not to underestimate them. I really think we should send more Knights there."

"Well, I think we all know what good a job a Number would do of-" began Luciano.

"Luciano," intoned Bismarck, Knight of One. "You are a hair's breadth away from insulting a superior officer. Do not do so." Luciano lowered his head quietly. "Why are you so opposed to it? It would get the job done more quickly."

"Karine la Britannia herself has requested that I and I only aid her in Area Eleven," answered Luciano easily. "She thinks that sending more Knights to the Area only makes it look like we're taking the Black Knights more seriously than we need to."

"It's true," nodded Oscar de Britannia. "I was with Luciano when she spoke of it, and as both a Princess and the Area's current Steward, we have to respect her decision."

"So be it," nodded Nonnette. "Only Luciano will go to Area Eleven, for the moment. But I want Kururugi and Weinberg ready to aid at a moment's notice. Place them on standby in the Area. Princess or no, I'm not going to let us lose control of an Area because of that girl's pride."

Gino saluted casually, and Suzaku nodded. I wanted to go there anyway... I owe that to Japan, and to Lelouch. To see what happens... and do what needs to be done.

"There is one other thing," noted David Dalton, and the others turned to face him. He turned slightly red, not used to the attention, but managed to keep his cool. "W-we'll need to keep a few Knights in reserve, also, because who knows what will happen? We might have another rebellion, like in Area Six."

"He's right," nodded Aaron. "How about this- One, Four, and Eleven handle China, Two, Three, and Twelve have the European Union, and Six, Eight and Nine are on standby? Assuming that's okay with everyone," he added, giving Bismarck a subservient glance.

"Three of us against the whole European Union?" asked Alice. "I don't think those are very fair odds- perhaps we should let the Europeans have a handicap." She grinned at her own joke, and it drew a few smiles around the table.

"Any other business? No? Meeting adjourned, then," declared Nonnette, and then she stood.

"For all your talk, Luciano, the meeting wasn't that long after all," observed Alice with a smirk as she came to her feet.

"Still too long for my tastes," said Luciano irritatedly, and he turned to leave. "Like I don't have enough to do without coming to these little group therapy sessions." The other Knights milled about, some leaving, some staying to talk. Suzaku rose to his feet, and turned to leave but was interrupted by a voice.

"Suzaku!" exclaimed a warm voice. Suzaku turned- it was Gino Weinberg, the Knight of Five. "Have you got a sec?"

Suzaku didn't know that much about Gino, but he'd liked him since he met him. Gino was friendly and sociable, and was one of Cornelia's Knights, the same as him, so he didn't have to worry about politics around him.

At least, that was the thought. As he was about to learn, it wasn't entirely accurate. "Of course, Mr. Weinberg. What is it?"

"Call me Gino," chuckled Gino warmly. "No need for formality among friends, right? Anyway, I wanted to ask you about... well, about the Black Knights."

A warning light went off in Suzaku's head. "What about them?" he asked carefully.

Gino's smile shrank slightly, but held its ground. "Well, you're the one of us who has the most experience against them. I know the Glaston Knights fought them a little, but you really went toe-to-toe with them quite a few times, right?"

That much was a matter of public record, so Suzaku nodded. "I did, yes."

"Well, what do you make of them?" persisted Gino.

Suzaku frowned. "That's... a very broad question," he answered cautiously.

Gino sighed. "I'm not trying to get you in trouble, Suzaku. I'm on your side. I just... ah, hell." He looked around, glancing at their surroundings. Making sure we're alone,realized Suzaku. "Look... Princess Cornelia is planning something. Something big."

"Something involving the Black Knights?'" asked Suzaku. "It's surprising she hasn't told me, then."

"She didn't tell you because she thought you'd be against it... given your history with them and all." Gino scratched his head. "Look... we want to try negotiating with them."

Suzaku's eyebrows shot up, and his mouth opened slightly in surprise. "Negotiating?" he repeated, amazed. "With the Black Knights?"

"You've heard the speeches the Princess has given since she's come back from Area Eleven," nodded Gino. "About retaking the mainland, and giving up some of the Areas? She wants to start with Eleven. She thinks beating Zero is more trouble than it's worth, and... well, more than that, I can't guess. I don't know her mind," shrugged the Knight of Five.

"But... but the Emperor would never stand for that!" exclaimed Suzaku, still stunned.

Gino shrugged again. "Not my department. She asked me if you would be willing to talk with them. If you're not... well, then plans would change. Are you willing?"

A thousand thoughts swam through Suzaku's head, and in his confusion, he slipped up. "I've met Zero," he said, accidentally, and then realized what had just escaped his lips.

The Knight of Five gave a low whistle at this. "For real? Damn... what was he like?"

Suzaku shook his head, his mind filled with images of Lelouch. What... was he like? How do you describe a man like Lelouch? He's so complicated, I don't even know how I feel about him anymore... I've avoided thinking about it ever since he told me he was Zero. Why did he do that? Did he just want to be honest with me? To give me the truth before we parted? I don't understand him... the way he thinks. But I can say a few things for certain... "He's brilliant, charismatic, resourceful, and angry," declared Suzaku. "Very... very angry."

Gino hrmed at this. "Well, do you think he'd be willing to talk to us?"

"Yes, he definitely would," nodded Suzaku. "He loves to talk..." He paused, giving it a few more moments of serious thought. "And I would be willing to."

Gino smiled. "Well, alright then."

I had to take a lot of liberties with this chapter... my version of the Knights of the Round is, of course, very very different from the canon one. I like to think my Knights are less... retcon-ish. It always struck me as sloppy writing that they just suddenly "showed up" for R2- if Britannia has had these elite pilots all this time, why did none of them help fight off the Black Knights during the first rebellion? That wasn't the only problem that I had, though- in CG, we never see the full cast of the Knights, and some of them that we DO see only play bit parts, and never really do anything. So I had to create some new Knights.

If anyone saw Alice as a Knight coming, I want to give you a big round of applause- other than Kaguya and Sayoko, she was the only officer of the Circle who wasn't killed, and I really wanted to catch you by surprise with this twist, but still have the signs be there ahead of time. As for why she's a Knight even though she's... well, a traitor? That's Schneizel's scheming, of course. He's up to something with her... what, we'll just have to wait and see.

Review, comment, question, all that goodness, and I'll see you again soon, folks!