Disclaimer: I do not own Code Geass or any of its Canon Characters.

AN: I haven't gotten much done in the five weeks. A two week trip to Ireland and the UK left me with almost no free time. Making it worse, Scotland kicked my ass and gave me pneumonia, which takes a long time to recover from. I had a rather interesting time wondering how the French would have assaulted Edinburgh Castle in CG history when I was standing on the Half Moon Battery. It was completely worth it. If it were possible, I likely would not have returned to NA.

Intercontinental flights can be quite inspirational. I honestly felt more at home twelve kilometers over the Irish Sea than I ever have on the ground. Also got a decent view of the whole galaxy at night over the North Atlantic.

Suzaku Kururugi had always wondered what it would be like to leave Japan. After all, he had spent over 95% of his life on the main island of Honshu. Only brief trips to Hokkaido in the north and Shikoku and Kyushu in the south, all before the Britannian invasion, had given him any real exposure to life away from Tokyo. As a young boy, he always imagined that he would one day leave home to see the world and marvel at its wonders.

His life was a lonely existence in those early years. Genbu Kururugi was an extremely powerful figure, and he took little notice of how that impacted his son's life. Suzaku's childhood was a terribly lonely affair. His days consumed by training and preparation for what his father saw as his future as the leader of Japan.

His first friends had been a Britannian prince and princess, exiled to what the Empire saw as a far away foreign island nation. It was refreshing in its own way, to finally meet someone that could understand how he felt. Although they had little in common at first, the few things they shared grew into a bond that would link them forever.

Then, one fateful day in the summer of 2010, it all came crashing down. The future he had wasted his childhood preparing for was no longer to be. The Britannian invasion had ripped his life apart and left him adrift. It would remain this way; a life of simply surviving that all blurred together, until yet another fateful summer day seven years later. He found a new future, and a new purpose as opposite as could be imagined from what his father thought he would become.

Instead of a politician, proudly carrying the torch of the Kururugi family forward to lead Japan into a new age, he had become Sir Kururugi, first a knight of honor, and then one of the youngest generals in Britannian history. The only officer of such a rank from non Britannian origin.

It was with supreme irony that he was now doing the one thing that he had dreamed of as a child, even though distorted by his new reality. Instead of travelling the world as an adventurous young man, off to see what lay beyond Japan, he was leaving by force. He almost laughed at the thought. Lelouch and Nunnally had been exiled to Japan from Britannia, and now Lelouch was exiling him from Japan to Britannia.

Battlegroup Neptune was the vehicle to take him east across the vast Pacific Ocean. The RBN Assault Carrier Galatea became his temporary home for the voyage. He adapted to living on the ship quickly, his experience on the Yorktown making the transition smoother than it would have been with his very limited experience aboard warships.

The trip across the ocean was the total opposite of what he had come from in Tokyo. It was supremely boring, with little to do but stare at the deep blue that surrounded them on all sides. Despite his rank, he had no real military function aboard the ship. Suzaku was reduced to little more than a passenger for the navy.

Area 5 was the first piece of dry land he had ever touched beyond his homeland. The Pacific island chain was foreign, yet still familiar. The sights and climate were similar enough to not be an overload to him. By the end of the three days that Neptune had stopped in Pearl Harbor, he had already taken a liking to the place. Beautiful, peaceful, and enough like home to not feel utterly foreign and alien.

These islands rejected his mental image of what it meant to be an Area. There were no daily terrorist attacks, no brewing rebellions or widespread poverty. Although the divide between Britannian citizens and Numbers was still sharp enough to be visible, it was nothing like the pseudo slavery of Area 11. The poor and run down sections were, at a glance, not exclusively occupied by Numbers. Although he clearly did not have the whole story, the outcome here, in what was formerly Hawaii, was much better than what had become of Japan.

Area 5 was not their ultimate destination, however. The ships soon enough began moving east once again, until they eventually pulled into port at a giant RBN facility in San Francisco.

Known simply as California Base, the naval base was the largest on the west coast of the Britannian homeland. It had to be, as it was the home of their vast Pacific fleets.

Suzaku was surprised at how similar it still was. It hadn't quite hit him that he had travelled over eight thousand kilometers across the largest ocean on the planet. That quickly changed as his method of travel transitioned from large warship to aircraft.

The journey continued east, far from the coast. The lingering familiarity faded away as he reached a classified installation, spoken of only as Site Delta, deep in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. It was here in this icy environment that Camelot had constructed their primary research and testing center. Far from prying eyes, and with plenty of room and freedom to play with experimental technology.

Suzaku had known for a long time that Lloyd's section of Camelot was not the main one, but the difference was gigantic. Lloyd and Cecile had at times operated entirely out of a large transport vehicle that housed the Lancelot. This was entirely the opposite of their almost makeshift operation.

Camelot's Delta facility was massive in comparison to anything he had seen before. The base was a sprawling network built directly into a mountain. It immediately reminded him of the JLF's base at Narita, but of a size and scale that put the Japanese version to shame.

Inside the mountain were large hangars that led to the outside world though wide tunnels, entire complexes of labs, engineering operations, and housing for at least hundreds of personnel.

Equally as impressive as the base itself, were the machines awaiting within. Less than ten minutes after arriving, Suzaku was looking at experimental aircraft, unknown weapon systems, and knightmare frames that bore a striking resemblance to the Lancelot. The fact that there were at least a dozen such units indicated to him that they had finally begun to develop a mass production version of the super advanced technology demonstrator. Although the original had been lost in the Battle for Tokyo, it had been apparently too late to cause any real delay on the development of the frames he saw here.

Most intriguingly, some of the new unknown units were equipped with what appeared to be wings of some sort mounted around the cockpit block. Had Britannian scientists developed their own version of a knightmare sized float pack?

The Black Knights had a single, clearly experimental unit equipped with such technology. In the hands of a capable pilot, it had proven immensely effective in combat. Even though their highly modified Gekka was no match for the Lancelot in a direct engagement, both the machine and operator were skilled enough to at least keep up with him. The very idea of a Lancelot quality knightmare frame with flight capability would be terrifying for anyone who would have to face it. With float system technology, the knightmare frame may yet reach the potential promised in the early years of development.

Lelouch and his army had proven quite conclusively that the knightmare frame, at least Sutherland quality units, were definitely not the be all and end all of modern warfare that they were originally hyped up as. Although they certainly had a place in combat, Black Knights tanks and aircraft had killed more than their fair share of Sutherlands in the fight for Tokyo.

The older, battle proven concepts of armored vehicles stood up well enough against the knightmare frame, now that enough time had passed for proper tactics to be developed. The utter failure of the SDF during the invasion could in hindsight be attributed heavily to the fact that they had no idea how to fight knightmare frames. Clearly, that had changed with the rise of the Black Knights.

Suzaku's guided tour of the facility was interrupted by the sight of an even more advanced frame being worked on. It shared the same basic Lancelot style design as the others he had seen, but was slightly larger and equipped with a wide variety of extras. His eyes immediately identified a pair of MVS swords, and wrist mounted Blaze Luminous shield generators.

"The prototype of what we expect to be the Commander version of the Vincent bears quite a resemblance to the Lancelot, does it not?" Suzaku to see what could only be described as a blonde, female version of Lloyd approaching.

"Except for what appears to be a flight system, ma'am." Suzaku answered, not particularly caring that he likely out ranked the hell out of her. Anyone intelligent enough to design such advanced weapons was worth considering a superior until otherwise ordered.

"Good eye. You must be the brigadier general I was told I was getting. Judging by your race and rank, I should be expecting the very best, no? I've never heard of an honorary citizen rising so high." She continued.

"Of course. After all, Suzaku is a superb specimen. He brought out the true potential of the Lancelot, and even managed to escape without so much as a scratch from deep behind enemy lines. There are few more dependable." Lloyd spoke up before he had a chance to respond.

"Excellent! Linnea Alba, head of Camelot special weapons research in Colorado."

"Brigadier General Kururugi, ma'am." Suzaku answered, reflexively giving her a slight bow.

"My my, such a nice man you've got here, I like him already Lloyd."

"Suzaku is still my prize devicier. Don't go trying to steal him, Linnea."

"Just as possessive as I remember you to be, Asplund. Still, I can't in good conscious say a single bad thing about the work you do. The Lancelot truly was a marvel of engineering and design. It's a shame that it had to be abandoned for those rebel savages to defile." Alba answered.

"Indeed. Unfortunately, even a machine as good as the Lancelot is quite useless without an energy filler to power it. There was nothing that could be done to save it."

"Hopefully that is a problem we can solve one day. However, in the meantime we are focusing on what we can do now. Such as developing a mainline seventh generation frame to replace the Sutherland and Gloucester." She gestured over at a row of five of the basic versions on the opposite side of the hangar.

"The influence of the Lancelot is quite apparent, but that was Prince Schneizel's intention all along, wasn't it?" Lloyd observed.

"You're a mad scientist Lloyd. You do crazy things and invent machines so advanced that nobody can use them. You make the impossible into reality. I, however, transform the possible into the practical. These Vincent frames have a real shot at replacing the current models for general use. While they may not be as ridiculously advanced as the Lancelot, with a good pilot such as Suzaku here, it would be hard to tell the difference." She claimed with confidence.

"I'll hold you to that. Kururugi will most certainly push your machines to their limits, and we will see if these Vincents can hold a candle to my masterpiece."

Nunnally vi Britannia rolled back into her home as if she never had left it. It was different than it had been in her memories, she could tell. The wood flooring felt a bit newer, and stiffer than it had been in some places.

The sound in the second floor house was different as well, likely from repairs done with brand new materials. It was something that stuck out at her. She relied on touch and hearing far more than anyone with functional eyes would. In a way, it allowed her to perceive things that others would likely miss by sight alone.

If she could see the space around her, it would be almost impossible to tell it apart from her memories. But Nunnally had determined in less than two minutes that her home had undergone extensive repairs, if not partial rebuilding. There were no visible scars of the battle that had taken place here remaining, but she could still sense them beneath the surface.

Still, it was relieving to find that it had survived. When she had first heard that Ashford Academy had become a battlefield, the fear of losing it came on strong. To the former princess, this was more than a home, it was a sanctuary where the evils of the world dared not enter. There was no court infighting, no class divide, no racial violence. It was the one place in the world that she truly felt happy. She would have to ask her brother how badly it had been damaged.

It had been easily the second biggest shock of her life to find out what Lelouch was really doing with his life. Just barely beneath her mother's assassination on the order of life changing events. At first she had felt betrayed. Lelouch had lied to her, and lied so well she had not a clue. Something he had promised never to do, and yet he did almost every day for at least two months. The fact that Sayoko was an accomplice to it did not even register in comparison.

The first week in Hokkaido had been utterly depressing. She was angry and upset, feeling utterly alone in the world. Sayoko had explained why he had gone down the path he chose, and she understood, but that did little to lessen the pain it caused.

Why? It was a question that she could not stop asking. Objectively, she knew why Lelouch had become Zero. Revenge, rage against the betrayal they had suffered, hatred of a cruel world stripped of fairness by design. It was the why that lingered in her thoughts. Why could he not just be the kind, loving brother that she wanted.

It had not been until the third week in the rural north that she could finally accept that it was horribly selfish of her to feel the way she did. As Sayoko had put it, the cruelest prison ever conceived was the bird cage, and that was exactly what she had desired; to keep her brother close, so that he would always be there.

Truthfully, it was something that she had to learn to accept for herself. Taking away his freedom to please her own selfish interests would make her little better than their father had been. No, she had eventually come to accept that Lelouch would do what he felt was right.

Only when it finally hit her how much of a sacrifice he had made by sending her away did she finally come to understand what he was thinking. It was a tough call: suffer now in the interest of safety, or risk experiencing life altering loss in the battle that was certain to come.

Lelouch had sent her hundreds of kilometers away to ensure her safety, because he loved her. It did not matter how hard Sayoko tried to explain, it still felt like abandonment for too long. It was not until after she had apologized to the Japanese assassin that it finally hit her. She was growing up, fast.

Lelouch himself likely felt the same way after their mother was killed. The transition from having a life of everything at any time, to exile by any other name, hardened him. It killed a bit of him. He had become distant and cold, especially after the invasion, showing his old warm and loving self to only a very select few. He had been thoroughly transformed by that horrific night, probably even more than she had been. Losing her sight and mobility paled in comparison to what she saw as Lelouch losing a part of his soul.

It was only three weeks ago that she truly wanted to know what he had become. Even Sayoko was surprised when Nunnally had asked for her to give the true story of the Zero and the Black Knights.

What she heard made her feel like a spoiled child by comparison. The ridiculous hard work, the legendary commitment, and the infinite drive he had to bring people from all walks of life together to form an army with singular purpose: to defeat Britannia.

Not the Empire, or even the nation, but the ideal. That was their target, the binds of darwinism wrapped so tightly around what should by all rights be the greatest nation in history. Nunnally had listened, as Sayoko told her of all the highs and devastating lows over the course of his campaign. It made her feel worthless. How could she sit here far away while her brother risked everything to fight for a better future.

Nunnally had grown a spine of steel during the conversation in which she demanded to return to Tokyo. She smashed through his resistance in a way only she had the power to. It took less than a half hour to make it so.

The flight back had been uneventful, at least from her point of view. Sayoko pointed out to her that their aircraft had been given a set of six stealthy Tempest fighters as escorts, something she would not have been able to notice without her eyes. Other than that snippet of information, the trip back to Tokyo was almost identical to the one that took her north in the first place.

Her thought were pulled back at the sound of footsteps. Or rather, she could actually feel them before she registered the sound they made. There was nothing to be alarmed about though, as she recognized the sound and pattern as belonging to Sayoko.

"Do you feel it, Sayoko?" Nunnally asked the assassin turned older sister like guardian behind her.

"What is wrong?"

"There's nothing wrong, it's just different. This room is not the same as it was before. The flooring feels altered; it sounds newer that it was before." She explained. Sayoko smirked as she heard the observation. Nunnally had been an innocent and oblivious girl before the rise of the Black Knights. To a certain extent, she still was, but she had still been changed by it. Her ability to notice and analyze such minute details was something that she shared with her brother. However, she had never quite shown it before.

Sayoko had come to wonder at what level her literally shut eyes had blinded her to the truth of the world they lived in. In the time they had lived together, Nunnally vi Britannia had shown flashes of the same brilliance that Lelouch relied on. The thought crossed her mind more than once that had she not been caught in Empress Marianne's assassination, Nunnally could have rivaled her brother. One Lelouch was able to pull miracles out of thin air and make the world bend to his will. Together they would have been unstoppable.

"It may have been damaged during the battle that occurred here. If I had to guess, Lelouch wanted it to be repaired in time for your return." She explained.

"Do you know what happened here at the Academy?

"From what I've heard, it was likely collateral damage from the air strikes that cleared the campus of Britannian armored vehicles. Almost every window was shattered by the force of the explosions."

"I'm glad."

"About what?"

"That he had it fixed so quickly. That means this is still our home."

"The more things change, the more you can appreciate that which can remain the same." Sayoko commented.

"You're right. It feels good to be home."

Shirley Fenette gazed out of the cockpit window as the plane climbed for altitude. The flight across the Pacific had been long and mostly silent. Earl Stadtfeld had kept the aircraft perilously close to the surface as they crossed thousands of kilometers of empty blue beneath starry skies.

This was something that Shirley spent most of the journey staring up at. She was a city girl, having always lived in one of two large cities that were home to millions of people and hundreds of millions of lights. The sky in such places was ruined by light pollution. There were never more than a few dozen stars easily spotted by the human eye under such conditions.

In the middle of the Pacific, thousands of kilometers from civilization, it was easy to forget you were still on Earth. The night sky was alive with billions of stars, the overwhelming majority that failed to penetrate to the streets of a bright capital city.

Shirley passed the time by letting herself become lost in the view. With a bit of help from a computer and Nelson, she identified constellations, planets, and over a hundred individual stars on the flight.

The sky began to change as they neared their destination. Japan was known as the Land of the Rising Sun, and it just so happened that they were approaching the islands near dawn. The stars faded rapidly as the sky lost its transparency and began to turn blue again.

The serene atmosphere of their flight was harshly broken as they cleared one thousand meters and were quickly painted with a targeting radar. There were no Royal Britannian Navy ships this close to Japan, so that left only one possibility.

"Attention unidentified aircraft, this airspace is controlled by the Order of Black Knights. We have a weapons lock on you. Identify yourself and state your intentions or we will shoot you down." A voice came over their radio. It was not unexpected. After all, their private jet had nothing that could detect state of the art stealth fighters such as the Tempests the Black Knights were flying.

"Black Knights pilot, this is Earl Nelson Stadtfeld flying an unarmed private jet. Shirley Fenette is my only passenger. My intention is to defect and join you. Both Ms Fenette and my daughter Kallen are close associates of Zero. Please check with your superiors and give us a place to land."

"Continue on your current course, do not deviate until instructed." His reply was quick. They continued on course for five long minutes before the fighter pilot followed up.

"You are cleared to land your aircraft in Sendai. We will guide you in to the airfield. From there, you will be transported to the capital by one of our aircraft."

"Understood. Changing course now." he quickly responded. Their plane shifted as he made a gentle turn toward the city farther toward the north.

Tohdoh sighed as he listed to the assembly of powerful people continue to heap on the praise. This was something he was afraid of, ever since the moment he was summoned to this meeting. The future of the new Japan, he knew, would be decided by the formation of a new civilian government. A government that reflected the reality that over a quarter of the population were now effectively exiled Britannians.

The usefulness of military authority had ended the moment that the last Imperial forces had surrendered. The Black Knights themselves, Cornelia in particular, drove that point quite hard. They neither had the will nor the right to rule the land they had liberated.

Tohdoh had been a military man his whole life. His father before him had fought in the conflicts with the Chinese Federation before the Britannian invasion. He had grown up immersed in the SDF, and had joined himself the day he was old enough.

Now, as a leading member of what could only be described as one of the most effective fighting forces in the world, he found himself in the time honored position of being forced into a new role by the people he fought to protect. A role that all of his decades of experience gave him absolutely no preparation for.

"The fact remains, that we feel that you are the best qualified for the position. You have already dedicated your life in service to the Japanese people, Kyoshiro Tohdoh. We simply ask that you continue your service in another capacity." Kaguya spoke for the twenty five assembled in the meeting room.

"What of my Holy Swords?" he asked the Kyoto representative.

"The decision has been made to reforge the Japanese military. The Black Knights, as effective as they are, were created as an offensive force to attack the Holy Britannian Empire. This war Lelouch vi Britannia has started will lead his army far from our shores as he takes the fight to the enemy.

Therefore, it is essential that Japan build and retain a strong army, so that we never have to suffer another invasion. The remaining Holy Swords are ideal candidates to lead such a force. Their leadership and experience will be critical to the success of our efforts.

I understand your desire to continue to lead on the front lines, wherever they may be in the future, but the Black Knights no longer have a shortage of capable battlefield commanders. Japan, however, does have a lack of experienced leaders." Kaguya continued.

"How long would you have me serve?" He asked, wondering for several reasons. As a soldier, he could appreciate the fact that military dictatorship rarely worked. Even though it was to be a civilian government, he felt uneasy with the idea of a military lifer being assigned to do what should have been an elected position.

"Our new government will be directly appointed until such a time that we feel the country has recovered enough to hold meaningful elections. We plan to return to a similar system to what Japan had before the invasion, but it is just not possible right now, especially with the deep division among the population. At this time, we ask that you serve for five years, or until we feel confident enough to hold elections, whichever comes first."

The samurai sat and thought for a minute. The battlefield was an arena he was familiar with, comfortable on, even in the face of impossible odds. Politics was another beast entirely. He hardly wanted to enter this new realm, especially when the true fight was far from over, but the need was there. He knew he could get it done, regardless of how reluctant he was, and that was all that really mattered.

What use would it have been to fight, win, and make miracles on the battlefield, if the nation would crumble under poor leadership before it could stand again? As much as he personally wanted to fight on the front lines until the very end, Kaguya's argument was sound. The people of Japan needed him now more than the Black Knights did.

"Have you spoken to Zero about this?" He wondered what Lelouch would think, losing one of his strongest warriors to political needs. Most military leaders would be appalled at the idea, but then again, Lelouch vi Britannia was about as far from ordinary as you could get.

"Of course. I'm not so arrogant as to try and poach from the ranks of our heroes behind his back. He suggested you, right after Cornelia outright refused to continue once a new government was formed. We both came to the same conclusion, Tohdoh; you're the man we need to keep ourselves unified.

Your two decades of service in the SDF and JLF ensure that the Japanese people will trust you, while your role in the Black Knights and closeness to Zero, as well as Cornelia's backing, will earn you points with our Britannian elements. To put it simply, you're the best we have until such a time that the people can make a rational, informed decision about who should lead them." She explained.

She was right, and he knew it. While there were quite a few others with the necessary skills and drive, they were not Kyoshiro Tohdoh, the man of miracles known by every Japanese person left, and indeed armies across the world. They needed his fame and reputation as much as his raw skills and leadership.

"Very well. I shall be your Prime Minister." He accepted with finality.

"It's not a matter of strength or weakness, Your Majesty."

"Then what would you call it? " Emperor Charles asked his prime minister. This had been going on for hours deep within a private room of the Excelica Palace. Schneizel was being thoroughly questioned over the events that had occurred in Area 11.

While it was already abundantly clear where the true blame for that mess should be placed, Schneizel was still his best insight into what had actually happened on the ground.

Cornelia was a traitor, Clovis was dead, and Carine was likely dead as well. He could hardly blame his second son for their failures. What he could do, however, is generate a plan to fix it. The problem thus was, Schneizel was utterly convinced that there was no readily available solution.

"Simple life and death." Schneizel said after a moment. "We have absolutely no answer to the weapon that Lelouch used against us. If we try to launch a second invasion, he will wipe out our forces before we can force a real engagement. Hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of pounds in equipment will be lost for nothing." Schneizel argued.

"What exactly do we know about this weapon?"

"It's some kind of extremely advanced bomb, small enough to be mounted on a missile. Scientists I've spoken to are convinced it has to be some sort of nuclear device. Nothing else we know of could generate that much energy in such a small package. We've been trying to develop something similar for the past five years, but our best estimates were that it would take up to another two or three years before a prototype could be built." Schneizel began.

"In practical terms, the device generates the largest artificial explosions in human history. The fireballs observed were the size of a city, about four kilometers in diameter, and the blast wave extends well beyond ten. It would only take them two or three shots to obliterate invading fleets and armies.

The only real defense we know of is to use Lelouch's principles against him. He has thus far refused to do anything that causes civilian casualties, and chose to fight us in Tokyo conventionally instead of simply destroying the bulk of our forces at Starlight Field with a missile.

To fight them effectively, we would have to engage at close quarters, preferably in urban environments, without being hit before we arrive. Since we have to invade across an ocean, there is no conceivable way that the Black Knights would not see us coming and attack before we can land." Schneizel explained in detail.

The very thought of this made Charles angry. His traitor of a son, the little weakling foolish enough to make demands of justice, had not stayed dead. He was wrong about Lelouch, he had to be. Weaklings did not return from the dead, raise armies from nothing, and defeat Britannian troops in open warfare.

By all accounts the boy had done something that he believed to be utterly impossible; he had gotten numbers and Britannians to work together as equals to attack his realm. Lelouch had convinced thousands of his people, even members of the royal family, to betray everything they had been born to uphold and wage a war that by all rights should be unwinnable.

The betrayal and defeat was not the part that weighed on his heart, however. The worst part of this whole crisis was that Lelouch vi Britannia had been correct. Zero truly was a monster of his own creation. There was no question in the Emperor's mind that Lelouch was the greatest and most capable of his children. No other could have done what he did, accomplished so much with so little, not even Schneizel.

Had he misread Lelouch? The true potential of a ten year old was far from certain. What if had been misplaced bravery, not stupidity, that led him to the throne room in the wake of Marianne's assassination?

It finally dawned on him that no other of his children had ever dared to challenge him as Lelouch had. They all found their own ways of maneuvering behind the scenes, where they thought he could not see. No, the first born of his favorite wife was the only one to ever march into court and challenge him face to face. At the time, he had no idea that his treatment of what he saw as an insubordinate child would lead to the greatest threat the Empire had seen in a century.

It was also just as likely that his assessment of Lelouch had been correct, and that he had acquired the strength to become Zero through a desire for revenge. After all, true hatred was one of the most powerful motivators imaginable. The entire organization he had constructed seemed to be built on that hatred. Against himself, personally, and the ideology that he preached.

Now he had to fight him, his most capable son. He supposed that at the end of the day, it was nothing more than survival of the fittest. There could be only one, and he was not about to lose to anyone, no matter how impressive their comeback.

That left Charles zi Britannia with the not so small problem of trying to wage war against an enemy that possessed superior weapons across the open ground of the Pacific Ocean. Schneizel had a point, in that Lelouch would be watching like a hawk for the seemingly inevitable counterattack. To strike directly would be to walk into an obvious and deadly trap.

"I will not throw away entire armies on a suicidal gamble that they do not have enough of these nuclear missiles to destroy them before they land. If our armies cannot reach Area 11, then we will not send them.

Lelouch was clever and effective in how he successfully fought a superior force. With his new weapons, we find ourselves in a similar position to that which he faced at the onset of his rebellion. Turn his strategies and tactics against him, and cripple his Black Knights." Charles ordered his son.

"Of course, father. One knife in the back can often do what a thousand swords from the front cannot. I will begin making preparations for an insurrection of our own, as well as other, longer term strategies centered on the Chinese Federation."

"Movements like the Black Knights are like any living creature, my son. Isolate it, cripple it, strangle it, and it shall die. Make it so, Schneizel."

The landing had gone exactly according to the details the Black Knights had given them. Nelson's private jet came down at an airfield that was in perfect working order. It was only as he was on approach to Sendai that he realized the most likely reason he had been diverted here was that the city had seen little combat.

How normal the whole affair went was what actually surprised him. Air traffic controllers brought him in, the landing itself was as smooth as at any Britannian airport, and nothing at all went wrong. After a quick security screening, his aircraft was brought over to a guarded hangar.

The Black Knights themselves, the majority being Japanese, were surprisingly nice. They did not fit the stereotype of rebel numbers at all, although that was to be expected considering who their leaders were. Both himself and Shirley were fitted with IFF tags that identified them as VIPs by a sergeant on the ground.

The transfer was quick and smooth. The pair only spent a half hour on the ground in Sendai. The Black Knights moved them and their baggage to a fueled and waiting VTOL transport craft with military efficiency. Less than forty minutes after they landed, they were in the air again, headed toward Tokyo.

Shirley stared out of the transport as they flew toward the capital. The apocalyptic devastation of the Mjolnir warhead that brought down the Avalon caught her sight and refused to let go. Never before had she seen such destruction first hand, and she never wanted to again.

It was a sobering experience, flying over what was becoming known as The Scar. The massive gouge in the earth that led from the third nuclear blast zone to the Avalon's crash site. She remembered Schneizel's airship from before she left Tokyo. It had appeared so immensely powerful as it hovered over the city, dwarfing everything else in the sky. To see it's corpse, dead and rotting alongside the coast, made the whole thing begin to feel real.

That had not been the full extent of war she had seen on the flight south, but it was the majority. A few crashed wrecks of military planes from both sides had been visible as well. The salvage teams had not gotten to them yet with their capacity so strained. Whatever fires had started around them had since burned out on their own, leaving charred black areas around some of the wreckage.

"ETA 20 minutes to landing." The pilot's voice came through the speakers, disrupting her train of thought just as the outer reaches of the city began to come into view. The difference was harsh from the air. The line between the ruins of old Japanese Tokyo, and the Britannian city was unmistakable. Much of it had been swept away as a part of Operation Wildfire, but the distinction remained as clear as ever.

It was strange to think that her home was an island of calm modernity, built atop so much death and destruction. When she could see it like this, it was no wonder that there had not been a shortage of Japanese rebels. Shirley felt as if she had been blind her whole life as the horrors of Britannian colonization finally began to hit her.

The revelation was cut short by a blaring, unexpected alarm.

"Brace for emergency evasion!" The pilot yelled out as the smooth flight turned chaotic. Shirley held on tight as the aircraft's engine pods swivelled violently, stopping all forward momentum. They flipped upside down, and Shirley felt a moment of weightlessness as a stream of bright lights passed perilously close to her window.

As the aircraft plummeted into a high speed, high G dive, her brain realized that the lights were anti aircraft tracers, even though she did not want to believe it. A shock rattled the airframe as a burst of HE rounds detonated close enough to spray them with shrapnel. Nothing penetrated the armor, but it served to drive in the fact that someone was actually trying to shoot them down.

With nothing to do but hold on, Shirley forced herself to glance out the small window. Five rapid, bright flashes on the top of a building caught the edge of her vision. A sixth and a seventh made her realize that it was return fire. Another Black Knights aircraft was pumping rockets into the rooftop where their would be killers had attacked from. The fact that the offending guns fell silent meant that it had probably worked.

"Everyone OK back there? We took a few glancing hits but the aircraft seems to be in good shape." The pilot called back to the passengers. The four Black Knights soldiers and Nelson responded first, followed by Shirley, who did so on autopilot after hearing the rest of them.

Even though she had not been actually injured, it was a jarring experience. She had never actually been shot at before. Equally as strange was the knowledge that she was alive exclusively due to the skill of their pilot. She rolled her head back, silently hoping that they would actually make it to the landing zone.

The irony of the events that had transpired in last three hours almost made him want to laugh. Lelouch played the video for a third time, taking in every word, every expression, every last detail of the proclamation. He dearly wished that they had all died in the Battle of Tokyo.

A full reversal of roles had occurred in Japan. The Black Knights now controlled the entirety of the island chain, and it was now the Britannians that were running a rebel insurgency. Oh, the irony indeed.

They had launched a widespread coordinated attack against Black Knights assets across the Tokyo area. Fifteen separate strikes within ten minutes of each other had announced the existence of a Britannian rebellion.

Within a half hour, a video had surfaced on the internet, claiming responsibility for the wave of attacks. Led by the surviving Glaston Knights that had escaped during the final battle, the movement called itself the Imperial Sabers. Self described as counter revolutionary freedom fighters, the Imperial Sabers had declared war against the 'traitors' of the Black Knights, and swore to evict them from what they claimed was rightfully Britannian territory.

The attack, for all its surprise and shock value, highlighted a truth that could not be ignored. Britannians had never fought a true guerilla war, and it showed. Lelouch smiled as he went over the reports from local commanders, detailing a surprisingly minor amount of damage. In four of the fifteen cases, the Black Knights had outright turned the tables on their ambushers and decisively crushed them.

He could not help but think that he could have devastated the Black Knights with the forces and weapons they had revealed. It certainly helped the Black Knights that they themselves were skilled in that type of combat, and thus knew how to defend against it. Even so, that alone should not have saved them from what could have been a powerful sneak attack.

The greatest amount of damage the IS attacks had inflicted had been against stationary targets. Property damage, is what they traded the element of surprise and knowledge of their weapons and capabilities for. It was laughable to the seasoned rebel leader. He quickly concluded that the Sabers were at best, a cheap imitation of his Black Knights.

Of course, that did not automatically mean that they were an inconsequential group that could be ignored. The Black Knights were still severely depleted from the strength they had before the Black Rebellion. Even minor amounts of damage could add up quickly.

Timing was another issue. IS had chosen to make themselves known a day after Nunnally had returned from Hokkaido, and only a few hours after he received word from Sendai that Shirley and Kallen's father had apparently flown across the Pacific back to Japan. They were all critical VIPs that IS would be sure to target if they became aware of them.

"Quite the problem, isn't it?" Lelouch turned around from his desk to find out that Cornelia was standing behind him. How long had she been lurking there?

"Not as bad as it could be, but definitely enough to cause real issues."

"I suppose you're getting a taste of how I felt facing the Black Knights as Viceroy."

"I'm really not a fan of this pattern, Nelly. First Suzaku, and now these guys. It seems that with the exception of Guilford, almost everyone connected to you is destined to become the enemy."

She smiled on the inside. That was the first time he had called her Nelly since before Marianne's assassination.

"They made their choices, and I made mine. It's strange, really. I can't help but feel a bit proud of them; I did train them to be the best I could make them, afterall. But at the same time, it hurts to know that we ended up on opposite sides of this war." Cornelia explained.

"I know, but I will still destroy them, regardless of what they once were to you. The Glaston Knights are now a direct threat to everything that we have fought and bled for. The Black Knights will crush their attempt at a counter rebellion.

And Suzaku… " Lelouch's eye filled with the unholy light of Geass. "Suzaku will atone for his sins. He betrayed his own people, he betrayed me, and he nearly killed Kallen. For that, he will be made to answer to my justice." he said with conviction.

Cornelia got an idea of what her brother had in store for the knight, and the thought of it terrified her. It was the greatest relief of her life to find out that Lelouch had only used his Geass on her in a very limited capacity. The orders he had given were a one time command to accomplish a specific goal. However, with the right wording, Absolute Obedience could tear out souls and reduce even the strongest of people to enslaved husks. That, she was certain, would be a fate worse than death.

Schneizel el Britannia watched with a smirk as phase one of his plan was put into action. The whole operation had been a hastily arranged affair, but it would serve its purpose.

The Second Prince was intimately aware that the patchwork of surviving loyal Britannian forces in Area 11 were severely under equipped and not at all prepared to fight the kind of war he was asking them to. However, their true objective was not to win and defeat the Black Knights, but rather to buy time.

The Glaston Knights were zealous, especially given that the Black Knights had killed one of their own, as well as their father. Schneizel knew well that no matter how determined they were, Lelouch would not be brought down by a few knights with little support.

Lelouch was always one of the most capable in his eye, even as a child years earlier. The success of the Black Knights; the fact that such an organization even existed at all, proved to Schneizel that he had been right about his younger brother. To truly defeat him, he would have to go the full distance.

That was why, as the Imperial Sabers created chaos and gave the Black Knights a visible enemy to focus on, some of his best agents were on their way to the Chinese Federation. There, they would begin to implement a plan he had been secretly working on for years, although without a reason to implement it. Now, with a few modifications, he would be able to make it reality.

The de facto leaders of the country were a group of stereotypical, power hungry idiots with god complexes. Everything they did was designed to maximize their own personal power and control over the vast territory of the Federation. It was brutal, although far from efficient, but it did work.

However, their own nature would be their undoing. The Federation's persecution of its own people was on a level beyond what Britannia did. In most established Britannian Areas, Numbers were essentially third class citizens, but were not so actively smothered by the government. Area 11 before the Black Rebellion had been the closest the Empire had ever come to Federation levels of oppression, but even that had been comparatively tame. After all, Britannia had no analogue of the Federation's secret police, with nearly limitless power to do as they wished to the general population. Fear was the greatest constant of life under their rule.

The people ruled by the Chinese Federation would certainly side with Britannia if given the choice. Even as Numbers with only minor prospects of advancing to honorary citizenship, their lives would drastically improve from the current situation. They would be happy to trade one tyrant for another with the promise of marginal improvement.

Schneizel needed to move quickly and make it happen before the success of the Black Rebellion fuelled their appetite for armed rebellion. Without someone of Lelouch's caliber, they would certainly be crushed if they rose up, but there was always the possibility that such a person did exist in obscurity. The success of a Black Knights style revolution in China was simply not an acceptable outcome, as it would shatter the balance of the world, and not in Britannia's favor.

The Black Knights would jump at the chance to expand if the Federation collapsed into a power vacuum. With the resources they could acquire in China, they would become a legitimate threat to the whole empire. That was the worst case scenario that had to be avoided.

Just as the Emperor instructed, Schneizel's goal was not to destroy the Black Knights outright, but rather to isolate them. If he could take control of the Chinese Federation, Area 11 would be completely surrounded by imperial dominated territory. As damaging as the loss of Area 11 had been, it was not going to cripple the Empire. After all, Area 11 was a resource poor region. All the sakuradite in the world would not translate into military power without large scale imports of vital resources to construct weapons. He would cut them off and imprison them on the accursed islands they loved so much.

AN2: Quite a bit of setup for future events in this one. I could have pushed this over ten thousand words, but given the chain of events that I have, those scenes will fit better in 24.