Imperial Calendar, year 2010; a mere decade after Second Impact, the Holy Britannian Empire had risen out of its ashes and had once again embarked upon its mission of Pax Britannia. Its first victim was the tiny island nation of Japan, devastated by the Impact but climbing furiously in power through its vast sakuradite trade. It, however, was no match for the titanic Empire. The Japanese military was devastated by the introduction of the first Humanoid Autonomous Armored Knight, the Knightmare frame. Light, fast and deadly, the Knightmare frames devastated the Japanese line of defense for the mainland, and Japan fell to its knees. Prime Minister Kururugi committed suicide and the once-proud nation became known simply as "Area 11."
Stage I: Shinji Ikari
The dark-haired boy stooped into the dirty tent.
"Aunty, here," he said softly.
"Thank you, Shinji," the tired old woman answered. She received the bowl of food and sat down tiredly.
"Aunty, are you feeling okay?" the boy asked. The woman chuckled.
"Shinji…you really are nothing like your father; you're such a considerate boy…"
"If only I was born a Britannian," the boy sighed. "Things would be so much-"
"NO!" his aunt snapped. "NEVER be ashamed to be Japanese! We of Japan are much better than the damned Brits! They invaded our nation, took away our freedom, but we still live, and so our pride lives on with us!"
The woman sighed again.
"You're right; you're always so sensible and grown-up. True; it would be easier on your uncle and me if we were Britannians, but from a Japanese womb you were born, and to a Japanese grave you shall go."
Shinji sat down and bowed his head.
"THAT JERK HUNG UP ON ME!" the redheaded girl squealed. "I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!"
Shinji stared forlornly at the gleaming Ashford Academy.
"Stop dreaming, Ikari," he told himself. "You're an Eleven, for God's sake!"
"And WHAT is wrong with that?" a sharp female voice demanded.
Shinji snapped up. A short-haired Britannian student stood angrily before him. Ever the attentive worker, Shinji slipped into autopilot.
"Oh! Good afternoon, miss. What would like? We have a wide selection of-"
"I'd like for you to have some pride in your race!" she snapped. "There's nothing wrong with being Japanese!"
Before he could offer an apology, she had marched off.
'Good God…her uniform is the Ashford standard, so…'
He broke out in a cold sweat.
'Shit…I think I just insulted a daughter of some aristocrat…but why would the daughter of a Britannian noble …'
"Um…Mr. Ice cream man?" a timid, soft voice asked. It was another Ashford girl, this time with long, brown tresses, sitting in a wheelchair.
"Uh, yes, miss?" he stammered. This one was gentle-looking and somewhat nervous, but still…losing another customer is bad.
The girl coughed embarrassedly.
"Could you push me back to school, please? I came out and got lost…"
She tilted her face. The large eyes were shut. She was blind. Startled, Shinji moved quickly out from behind his cart.
"Mr. Ice cream man, wait," the girl said. "Can you just tell me your name?"
"It's not important, miss," he said.
"I think that it is. Tell me, please. I'd like to know; I'm sure we could be friends."
"It's Shinji, miss. Shinji Ikari."
"Well, I'm Nunnally. Nunnally Lamprouge; nice to meet you, Shinji."
"I, Lelouch Li Britannia, order you, all of you, die!"
The soldier jerked back and began to shake and laugh as the boy's left eye began to glow a sinister violet.
"Happily, your highness!" he cried. He and his men pulled their pistols and held them to their jaws.
"Tell me, why do you have to sell ice cream instead of going to school?" Nunnally asked gently.
Shinji smiled wearily as he pushed Nunnally down the bustling street.
"I'm an Eleven, Miss Lamprouge; my family lives in the Shinjuku Ghetto. If I don't work, then we'll starve."
Nunnally looked startled.
"But doesn't the government help at all?" she asked worriedly. "Doesn't father…"
Shinji actually laughed aloud.
"Help Elevens? Britannians, maybe, but not Elevens…"
Nunnally was quiet for a while. Shinji turned a corner, and they came onto the grand boulevard that led to Ashford Academy.
"Shinji, where do you live?" she asked.
"Shinjuku Ghetto; I told you, right?"
"No, I mean, where? What's your address? I'd like to talk to you some more."
Shinji laughed again, and Nunnally looked puzzled.
"What's so funny?"
"You asked for my address?"
"Yes, I did."
The wheelchair slid silently along the boulevard.
"My address…? I live in an oil-paper tent on top of a pile of rubble. It's a nice place; you should visit."
The Sutherland was harder to handle than the Ashford Academy's Ganymede. Lelouch gritted his teeth as the machine slid behind a shattered building. His cell phone beeped.
"Uh, Lulu? What in the world have you been doing? Where are you now? If you keep cutting class, you'll get left back," a girl's voice drifted over the line.
"Are you near a TV?" Lelouch asked.
"A TV?" she asked, confused.
"Sorry, but this is important," Lelouch apologized.
The girl over the line snorted, and Lelouch listened to her talking to her friends as she changed the channel to the News.
"Is there anything about Shinjuku?" Lelouch demanded.
"Why is it restricted?" he demanded as Britannian tanks rolled by noisily. If he stayed, then he'll almost certainly get caught, inside a Sutherland Knightmare frame belonging to a knight of the Purist Faction.
"I don't know; they're not saying," the girl said uncertainly. "Oh, you're gambling again, aren't you? I've warned you before more than enough about how dangerous it is!"
Lelouch smiled as he spotted a broken chess set on the ground. The King lay in the center of the board, the other pieces scattered about him, all alone, like he was right now, a commander without his troops.
Lelouch liked that.
"Yep, you got me," he said. "And by the way, tell my little sister that I'm going to be home late tonight, would you? Thanks; bye."
He hung up.
'They need to keep a lid on this information, so it'll be hard to call for reinforcements like this; they'll have to make do with the pieces on the board,' he thought to himself. 'I'm hemmed in here; it'll be hard to break through by myself.'
The Sutherland's hatch hissed open, extending the pilot seat. Lelouch stood up and stared as a Britannian assault VTOL burst into flames, struck by a Slash Harken.
'I want payback for having been dragged into your fight.'
A bright red Knightmare raced over the desert of Area 18, ignoring the fire pouring out of the gigantic Knightmare frames lined up ahead.
"Lady Langley, try to stay in formation," a voice admonished over the comm.
Girlish laughter drifted over the line.
"Your highness, you said I could have free rein, right? Anyway, what could any of these crusty, overweight shells do to me, the Knight of Two?"
A cannon shell exploded at the knightmare's feet, doing no damage to the machine, which had already soared far ahead. It dug its feet in and fired a Harken that slammed through the armor of the heavy knightmare, twisting the red frame around like a slingshot. Landing on top of the lumbering Bamides frame, the Knight of Two, Asuka Langley, slammed her lance right into the control room. She casually pulled it out and fit a bazooka into the hole. Three blasts emanated from the weapon, and the custom Gloucester slipped off of the dying Bamides, nonchalantly driving away on its landspinners as the lifeless machine exploded, showering sparks and debris over the impassive desert.
"And again, you charge in like a mindlessly mad barbarian." The voice admonished. "Well, that about does it for Area 18. I believe that Area 11 is up next."
Asuka tied back her long hair and leaned back in her seat.
"Of course, Princess Cornelia; it'll be the same treatment for the Elevens, right?"
The old woman coughed weakly.
"I was lucky, unlike the others…" she mumbled. "Your uncle is still out working. He should be alright."
She burst into tears.
"Britannians!" she screamed. "It's always Britannians!"
She rocked with dry heaves as Shinji held her, silent tears rolling down his cheek.
'But not all Britannians are like that…'
Nunnally, the girl he'd met outside Ashford Academy. She'd offered to let him in, hadn't she?
No; that was impossible; no Britannian parent would ever allow it, no matter how sweet their daughter is.
"C'mon; I'm sure the Black Knights or something can help us."
He helped his aunt up. The Black Knights were a new resistance that had sprung up in the wake of the most recent Shinjuku massacre. This one, however, was a great deal more successful, particularly that man, Zero.
Whoever this character is, he obviously gave a damn about the Japanese. His people should be able to help them.
"It isn't every day that I go to a meeting with Numbers," Charles zi Britannia, 98th Emperor of the Holy Britannian Empire, boomed. "Lorenz, your organization has caught my eye."
"Yes, Majesty; however, it is Ikari who manages the mundane, day-to-day affairs."
Light lit up on the seat of a dark, heavy-set Japanese man wearing amber glasses.
The Emperor laughed.
"An Eleven, are you? From what Schnizel's reports I deem interesting enough to read, you Elevens have given my people the worst resistance. One of you…that Zero character, even killed Clovis…not much of a loss, to be sure, but annoying nonetheless."
"Of course, Sire." The man said evenly, resting his face on his white-gloved hands.
The Emperor sipped a drink, enjoying himself.
"I find that your…projects suit my purpose. Therefore, I have decided that Britannia shall back Nerv's ventures. Turn in your requests for funding to my personal aides later."
He paused for a second.
"And you said that the most likely candidate for the pilot of…Evangelion Unit 02 would be Asuka Langley. She also happens to be the Knight of Two."
"She has been prepared, subtly, since a young age. The Evangelion has also been made to be similar to a Knightmare. Her combat training under your service will be training enough. The rest is simple enough for a lady of her intellect."
"Then move Unit 02 to Pendragon."
"I am aware that Area 11 is the chosen battlefield against these Angels. However, I'd like to observe the Eva for myself. I believe that enough have been said; you are dismissed."
Charles's seat went dark.
In the darkness of the room, only Gendo Ikari and Keel Lorenz were visible.
"Ikari…this is a gamble-"
"That is absolutely necessary; the Empire's support gains us all that we need. Money is irrelevant to the Committee, but influence is crucial."
"Then…we shall take your gamble."
Keel's light went out. Gendo smiled ever so slightly under his gloved hands.
He pressed a button.
End Stage I