Chapter Ten: Knights of Zero

"With the signing of this, the fourteenth amendment to the statute of independence, we bring about a new era of self-government and faith in our fellow man."

In a pair of shorts, with both legs curled beneath her, Kallen watched in interest as Zero's voice drifted from the television set in front of her. Suzaku had managed to nearly perfect the persona thfat he emulated, becoming the mask, so to speak. Had she not known his true identity, Kallen could have almost believed it really was Lelouch beneath that familiar guise. As Suzaku continued with his speech, Kallen's gaze shifted, locking on Gino as he slipped into the room. The blonde Brittanian handed her a bottle of water before settling down a short distance away, lounging lazily and staring at the screen.

"This is the first step toward a truly free Earth," Zero continued. "With the aid of Empress Nunnally vi Britannia, this amendment will remove the remaining Britannian peacekeeping forces from what was once known as Area Eleven, the United States of Japan."

"Suzaku made this out to be less important than it is." Gino said, checking to be sure he wasn't overheard.

"What do you mean? Hasn't this already been done in several countries already?"

"Yes, but none of those situations were as volatile as that of Japan. Taking the military presence away completely is a bold move, and it puts complete control in the hands of the Elevens-" The knight caught himself, shooting Kallen an apologetic look. "Sorry, Japanese."

Kallen hadn't thought of that, but it wasn't hard to follow to Gino's conclusion. For as long as she could remember, Kallen had seen Brittanian troops in Japan, and it gave her a great deal of pride to know that Suzaku had finally given the country it's full freedom. While Japan had been emancipated from the Britannian Empire some time before, the soldiers had remained to aid in bringing in a new government.

"I wish he'd have let me come." Kallen noted quietly, her gaze falling to the floor. "I'd feel more comfortable if I was there to back him up."

"I wouldn't worry about it," Gino said, shrugging. "The Glaston Knights were assigned as vanguard to Nunnally, and as long as Zero is with her, he remains under their protection as well."

"Aren't those the older models?" Kallen asked, indicating the two violet Knightmare Frames that flanked the stage that Suzaku and Nunnally spoke from.

"The Gloucesters? Yeah, in an attempt to diffuse extra tension, most of the 7th Generation and above frames were garrisoned, falling back mostly on Sutherlands and a few Cavalry units of Vincent models."

Gino had just finished speaking when an audible whine drifted from the television set, setting Kallen's teeth on edge. It took her a moment to place the familiar sound, as Zero instinctively stepped in front of the Empress of Britannia. A moment later the scene descended into chaos, as an explosion rocked the room, the camera that was filming the signing thrown to the floor. Dust settled into the frame, as Kallen and Gino leapt to their feet, shock freezing them in place.

A second blast shook the building as Suzaku moved, deftly pulling Nunnally from her seat. Debris crashed upon the stage around them, crushing the podium at which he had been speaking not a moment before. Shedding the cumbersome fabric that was Zero's cape, Suzaku dove free of the falling sections of ceiling, the young Empress clinging tightly to him. Three long strides took him down the stairs of the stage, as gunfire erupted throughout the room.

Darting ahead, the Glaston Knights took up a defensive position to Suzaku's rear, blocking the approach of the Knightmares that had burst into the Joyous Garde government building. Suzaku paid little attention to the battle that had began behind him, the familiar sounds of armored combat filling the room, caring only for Nunnally's safety.

Avoiding the surge of men and women as they struggled to get out of the crossfire, he made his way quickly toward the Gloucesters that came to the defense of the Empress, reaching a pair of pilots that had yet to enter their machines just as the sharp whine of heavy caliber rounds flew past him. The first of the two men who had come to his aid was thrown to the floor, a spray of blood bursting out of his back. Stumbling, Suzaku handed Nunnally to the second Britannian pilot.

"Get her to Claudio." He ordered quickly, before kneeling by the fallen Glaston.

The man gazed up at him, a mask of pain distorting his features. There was little solace Suzaku could offer him, as the gaping hole in the man's left side left him almost no chance of recovery. Apparently the pilot had come to the same conclusion, for he used what little strength he had to tear the Knightmare key from the chain on his neck, thrusting it into Suzaku's hand.

"The code is V43S 81RR. Go." He rasped, before his gaze slowly drifted to stare at the ceiling.

Clutching the activation key in his hand, Suzaku dashed away, a haze of smoke and dust obscuring his vision beneath Zero's mask. He was buffeted to the side as one of the Gloucesters nearby was destroyed, the blast taking out half a dozen civilians as they scrambled for cover. Managing to stay upright, he trudged on, clambering up the back of the dead Glaston's Knightmare. As he hopped into the cockpit, Suzaku cursed quietly. The Lancelot remained outside of the government building, knelt by Nunnally's transport, and effectively out of his reach. The fifth generation frame would have to do, in its absence.

Firing up the Gloucester, Suzaku removed his helmet, his face illuminated by the Heads Up Display. The Knightmare rose smoothly to its feet, dust and small chunks of stone falling from its frame. Two more Glaston Knights charged ahead, into the cloud of dust that filled the room, to engage the enemy units that had tore through their comrades.

A small sense of dread gripped Suzaku, twisting his gut, as he recognized the Knightmares that had attacked the assembly; A pair of Vincent Wards, the seventh generation frames produced off the Lancelot's design, assaulted the inferior Gloucesters. Suzaku distantly wondered what terrorist group would have access to Britannian military technology, but tucked his curiosity away.

With a squeal, the landspinners of Suzaku's Gloucester surged the machine ahead, as the young knight brought the frame's lance to bear. Reaching the two Glaston Knights, who stood defensively before the superior Knightmares before them, Suzaku opened a communication channel.

"Get the Empress to safety." He said quickly to the knights, stepping in front of them. "I'll keep them busy here."

"As you wish." The knights said after a slight hesitation, falling back to the rear of the trashed room.

Suzaku took a deep breath, sizing up the Vincents in front of him. He knew the capabilities of the frames better than anyone, as they were simply mass produced versions of his own Lancelot. The man had stood against them plenty of times during the final months of the war; Of course at that time he'd been the one with the edge in technology.

The Knightmares charged him, and Suzaku rose to meet the challenge. Both Vincents had brought their MVS Lances to bear, which could easily penetrate the armor of the less powerful Gloucester, though the men within them were nowhere near Suzaku's match. Urging the comparatively clumsy frame forward, Suzaku ducked blow the blade of the first frame, forcing the Gloucester into a tight spin to avoid the second.

He came up quickly, steel grinding against stone as his frame stuttered to a halt. Jamming his lance upward as one of the Vincents turned, he snared the enemy unit's lance with the prongs of his own, harshly twisting the weapon from the other frame's grasp. He only had a moment to leap clear, as a slash harken mounted on the enemy's hip flew toward him. Deflecting the projectile away with one arm, Suzaku quickly fired his own harken, using it to block the Vincent's second hip mounted projectile.

The three Knightmares descended into a hectic melee, struggling for the upper hand in the enclosed space of the government building. Suzaku pushed the Gloucester to its limit in an attempt to keep the more advanced frames off of him. For almost a minute he managed to keep both Vincents from penetrating his guard, using the heavy lance as a surgeon might use a scalpel.

Despite his skill and speed, however, even Suzaku couldn't stand up to two Knightmares with such a technological advantage. As he parried a blow with the tonfa attached to the Gloucester's left arm, using his lance to force the second Vincent on its guard, he reached the plateau of what the fifth generation frame could sustain. One of the MVS Lances drove into the left shoulder of his Knightmare, effortlessly slicing the frame's entire arm off.

"Dammit!" Suzaku growled, as he was knocked to the ground, sliding across the shattered floor.

Attempting to right the damaged machine, using his lance for support, he could only watch as one of the Vincents bore down on him. Taking a deep breath, knowing that ejecting the cockpit in such a confined space wasn't going to be smooth, Suzaku raised the Gloucester's lance in defiance. As the Vincent surged toward him, weapon raised, a pair of harkens appeared from nowhere, impacting harshly with its shoulder.

"A perfect shot!"

Gino's declaration was followed immediately by his arrival, as the Tristan burst into the demolished room, sliding to a halt in front of Suzaku's downed Knightmare. On his heels was Suzaku's own Lancelot Naito, the retrofitted Guren arm gleaming against the sunlight that filtered through the missing section of the government building. As the two Knightmares took up a defensive position, the damaged Vincent rose to its feet.

"Attention Enemy Knightmares. This is Gino Weinberg, Knight of Three." Gino announced, voice carrying to the pair of Vincents. "I am joined by Kallen Kozuki, the famous Ace of the Black Knights. Cease all aggressive actions and surrender, as this unprovoked attack is an act of treason, and you will be offered no quarter. You have ten seconds to comply."

"What are you doing?"Suzaku asked them, the faces of Kallen and Gino appearing in his display.

"Saving the day." Gino replied with a smirk. "I thought that much was obvious."

"You shouldn't have come. You just made yourselves a target for every enemy Zero has!" Suzaku shot back, slowly bringing his Gloucester to its feet.

"Do you really think we care about that?" Kallen asked, glaring at him.

"Heads up, I don't think they feel like surrendering." Gino said, drawing their attention back to the enemy Knightmares.

As they watched, two more Vincent Wards rushed into the gaping hole where a wall had once been, coming to their ally's aid. The four frames spread out some, believing their advantage in numbers offered them a chance at victory. Hefting the lance on the Gloucester, Suzaku moved to stand between the Tristan and Lancelot.

"Wanna do this the hard way? Fine!" Kallen said, rushing toward the enemy frames.

Gino and Suzaku followed in her wake, as the girl dove right for the Vincents. Despite himself, Suzaku found a small smile touch his lips. He had no doubt that Kallen could handle the enemy Knightmares alone without much trouble, and he and Gino were simply speeding up the process. Kallen engaged two of the frames without hesitation, as Gino and Suzaku picked up the other pair.

Missing an arm, the Gloucester could do little more than keep one of the enemy Knightmares occupied as Tristan dispatched its mate. Pushing the machine hard, Suzaku kept his guard up as the Vincent pressed the attack, trying to destroy him quickly to turn his attention to Gino and Kallen. Suzaku, even in a damaged fifth generation frame, made such aspirations impossible.

The pilots in the Vincents were skilled in their own right, but against two former Knights of the Round and the Black Knight Ace, they were completely outclassed. Gino made short work of the Vincent that he had damaged before, cutting it down in only a moment, before he set his sights on the one Suzaku kept at bay. As soon as Gino had engaged the frame, Suzaku shifted his Gloucester, darting toward Kallen's side.

The girl was handling the pair of Knightmares quite efficiently, forcing both of them to struggle to keep from being destroyed. Suzaku used their focus on her to his advantage, slipping in quickly. Thrusting his lance upward, a groan of metal announcing the strain on his damaged machine, Suzaku impaled one of the Vincents from the side, nearly tearing the cockpit from the frame.

Kallen quickly dispatched the other Knightmare, the Radiant Wave Surger decimating both frame and pilot, before finishing the Vincent that Suzaku had damaged. As she surveyed the thoroughly demolished room, Suzaku felt the legs of the Gloucester buckle, unable to keep the weight of the machine upright any longer. Finessing the Knightmare down, he took a calming breath, slipping Zero's helmet back on and opening the cockpit. It wasn't likely there were any cameras still filming, but he couldn't take any chances.

Leaping to the floor, Suzaku was quickly joined by Kallen, who had dismounted as well. The girl rushed toward him, coming to a halt at his side, and quickly looked him over.

"Are you injured?" She asked, genuine concern tempering her tone.

"No," Suzaku said quietly. "I'm fine. We need to check on the Empress."

"I'll stay." Gino called from the Tristan. "In case any more of their friends show up."

Nodding up at the Knightmare, Suzaku made his way through the rubble with Kallen at his side. Considering all of the fighting, he was relieved to see that most of the civilians had made it out of the government building in time, though a fair number of them had been caught in the initial attack. Lips curling in anger, he strode toward a handful of injured Glaston Knights.

"Zero!" One of them exclaimed as he approached, one eye covered with a makeshift bandage. "She's gone!"

"What?" Suzaku asked, unable to process what the man had said.

"It was all a distraction, a way to get the Empress back to her transport. Whoever instigated this attack knew what we would do, and they were ready for it. The Empress has been taken."

Author's Note: Well look at that, I actually updated. I'm going to slowly plug away at this while working on my own current project, so the updates might not come quickly, but I do fully intend to complete it. I had this little plot idea installed when I began the story, and was undecided whether or not I'd follow it, as this is more or less just a mild shipping fic. Since there seems to be more interest in this than I expected, I decided to go ahead with it, as it extends the story by a few chapters and gives Kallen and Suzaku a little more time to flesh out their relationship. Plus, I've grown fond of Gino's inclusion in the story, which is good.

So, now we have what could only be called the Knights of Zero, and a small conflict for Suzaku and Co. to resolve. I don't plan on some elaborate scheme or anything like that, it's simply a 'kidnapped Princess' scenario. It's somewhat cliched, but seeing as I'm hardly devoting a lot of brainpower to this over my own important work, and that this is mostly a fluffy piece, I'm strangely okay with that. Thanks for the support though, I didn't expect that Kallen and Suzaku would actually be somewhat popular among people.