First, my apologies. Because of the fact that I am using a lot of throw-away characters the anime only used in one or two scenes before killing them off, I sometimes get confused. In the prologue, I mention that Knight of Nine Nonnette Enneagram was the commander who surrendered to the EU. I have since been informed (THANK YOU CODE GEASS WIKI!) that Nonnette actually has some characterisation in some of the spin-offs and I have decided it would be a waste to have her as a mentioned-only character. Therefore I have changed the Britannian commander to the Knight of Four, Dorothea Ernst (yeah, I didn't know she existed either but wikis never lie). My apologies for any confusion this may have caused.
Zero worked out of a collection of sea-front warehouses which had been abandoned after the National Reclamation. While his supporters had gone to great lengths to try and make the place habitable, the damp smell of neglect still permeated the buildings. These were the headquarters of Zero's underground empire: a mismatched collection of internal dissidents, oppressed minorities and outright criminals. It was a teetering alliance but one held together by Zero's astounding charisma and their uniting hatred of Kururugi and his "State Department". All these elements collated around these warehouses which served as a safehouse, storage area, Black Market and Headquarters all at once. Right now, there was a conference of the organisation's major players to meet with their liaison from the EU. Normally a soldier like Asahina would not be required to attend but the bespectacled Captain boasted a healthy interest in politics and real news from the EU was surprisingly difficult to come by thanks to the State Department's "Media and Information Commission". As was increasingly the case, the news was less than positive.
"We still have our under-the-table support through the BSO but President Wiseman is too worried about the state of the EU sakuradite reserve to openly condemn Kururugi. You must remember that the Reactionaries are held together solely by the Industrialist lobby and their hatred for the NeoPopulists."
Someone in the command centre snorted at the name of the Central Hemicycle's third largest party.
"Populists... If they wanted a socialist paradise, why don't they just go to the Chinese Federation and starve with the rest of them?"
There was some appreciative laughter at that but Zero quickly silenced it with a wave of his gloved hand to allow their EU liaison to continue.
"Regardless of the NeoPopulists' somewhat... confused message, they are the largest anti-war movement in the EU and are gaining momentum fast. Parts of the Moderates are already considering a coalition to topple the Reactionaries in the next election. Either way, the chances of the EU intervening in Japan's domestic affairs are slim to nil. The Reactionaries are too afraid of Kururugi going over to the Chinese and the NeoPopulists are isolationist at best and outright supremacist on the fringes. Under Ershov, the Reactionaries could have held their ground but now..."
Zero put a hand on the man's shoulder, both a sign that he should stop and a wordless show of support. It was remarkable how he could turn such a simple action into something that would linger with a man for days afterwards. It was paternal without being condescending, comforting without being unprofessional, personal yet still wreathed in the Zero's impenetrable mystique. Such tiny things made the difference between an inspirational leader and the almost messianic figure Zero had become. Asahina had served under all sorts of commanders in his seven year career. He had even fought under Major General Tohdoh when the man was still a Colonel. Tohdoh had been a superb military mind and an exemplar of all the best Japanese values but he lacked that intoxicating aura that Zero so effortlessly propagated. Asahina had seen such a thing only once before he had met Zero, back during the Third Pacific War: Marianne vi Britannia. The woman had been a walking contradiction, able to slip between roles as fast as her nickname implied. One moment, she could be the epitome of a doting mother, the next a ruthless general hunting down the last of her enemies and then a beacon of hope in her modified Io knightmare, able to be both the rock of the Britannian defence and the spear tip of their offence. But that had not been what made Asahina gape in wonder. It had been the graceful way she could move between them, showing the same natural ease with each one of them. She was unquestionable in every action she did, such was the confidence she exhibited at every turn. It was that same unshakable force of will which drew people to Zero.
"Gentleman, this is a crisis which may yet engulf our organisation. The EU Foreign Affairs Office account for more than thirty percent of our current funding and are our main supplier of non-combat supplies and..."
"GET ME ZERO RIGHT NOW!"
Outside the conference room, there was a deep, meaty noise followed by a truncated shout and running feet. The doors burst open and revealed a girl of about nineteen with spiky red hair and the door guard in a headlock. Her eyes scanned the room before they fell on Zero himself. With a snarl, she dropped the guard and walked purposefully towards him, violent intent radiating from her. Asahina pulled out his sidearm and was about to give the intruder a warning shot (to the knee) when Zero motioned for him to put the gun down. Their masked leader instead swivelled his chair to face the girl and crossed his legs.
"Do you have a problem, Ms Kōzuki?"
The girl did not stop advancing until her nose was almost pressed against Zero's mask.
"Yes. I do."
Asahina had never seen someone attempt to stare off a man wearing a mask before but, to her credit, the girl held her ground. They sat in a stalemate for several long seconds, Zero calm and collected and the girl glowering and resolute. At last, Zero seemed to concede the match.
"Don't screw with me. You know why I am here."
The silence stretched awkwardly for another few seconds before...
"I march into your apartment in the middle of the night, shoot a man and then drop your brother's name to convince you to come with me. I then leave you in a warehouse with various unsavoury members of the population, most of which are more than willing to take advantage of a young woman such as yourself or outright condemn you for being a Japanese-Britannian halfbreed. I do not appear again for another three days, during which time you have to defend your increasingly hysterical mother from two separate physical attacks and more than twenty instances of verbal abuse. You no longer have the necessary drugs to keep your mother properly sedated and when you try and use Kaname Ohgi's name to secure supplies, you are treated with an ever greater level of disdain. Am I correct?"
Though the girl did a very good show of hiding it, Asahina noticed a flicker of shock at his words. He was not surprised. Zero had a habit of refusing to conform to people's expectations. While the girl was still collecting herself, Zero turned to Asahina.
"Captain Asahina? Could you possibly take Ms Kōzuki here up to the knightmare simulators? I believe she has some pent up energy which needs to be dissipated... productively. And send some people to look to the other Ms Kōzuki. They may need some minor sedatives to calm her down."
The Captain nodded and walked over to the red-haired girl. She refused to move, still trying to ignite Zero's mask with her eyes. The masked terrorist looked on, refusing to continue and acknowledge her presence. Asahina put a hand on her shoulder and she shrugged him off dismissively. The ex-soldier was not so easily put off and he grabbed one of her arms in a classic restraining grip. The girl twisted and attempted to elbow him in the face but he ducked under and trapped her other arm. If Zero noticed the scuffle behind him, he did not show it. With some effort, Asahina managed to manhandle the girl towards the door. Without looking back, Zero spoke to her.
"Shinjuku Memorial. Three this afternoon."
Then they were out of the conference room and into the damp smelling interior of one of the warehouses. She had stopped struggling for now and, after the door had been closed, Asahina released her. She gave the soldier a disgusted look but he did not rise to the challenge and simply led her towards the simulators. It was a shame. He would miss the end of the EU briefing.
Despite the best efforts of Kururugi and hundreds of billions of yen, Shinjuku had never fully recovered from the gas bombing close to four years previously. Many of the buildings were abandoned and collapsing or propped up with metal girders and taxpayer's money. Four years was not enough to replace an entire district worth of people with all their quirks and nuances. A thriving area of Tokyo had been wiped out to the last man woman and child and anything which tried to replace them was just sterile and almost offensively foreign.
Kallen arrived at the Shinjuku Memorial at about five past three. The place was littered with flowers to commemorate the anniversary a few weeks earlier. Kallen could see the marks on the ground where a stage had been set up so that Kururugi could spread his virulent political message, exploiting his nation's grief to support his nationalist bile. She daydreamed idly about blasting Kururugi with a knightmare like the one in the simulators (though the nerdy looking soldier Zero had designated her escort had tried to hide it, she could tell that he had been impressed by her performance) until she heard someone approach her.
It was Zero. He was not wearing his fishbowl helmet but instead, a pair of large reflective sunglasses and a breathing mask. While sakuradite technology was a lot cleaner than the gasoline and diesel stuff that the EU used, the busier parts of Tokyo were still polluted enough to made such filters relatively commonplace. He did not look at her but instead inspected the marble edifice of the memorial.
Devoted to the 12,419 Japanese men, women and children who died on the 31rst March, 2015
Their dignity is eternal and their deaths unforgotten
Kallen felt slightly uneasy. She had been ready to rip Zero a new one after his treatment of her and her mother these past few days but right now, she was unsure what to say. So they sat in silence until Zero finally spoke.
"When we first met, I mentioned your brother's name and you followed me. Why?"
Kallen was slightly taken aback. But she answered truthfully.
"I want to finish what Naoto started."
Zero did not speak for a whole minute.
"Your brother was executed on the 4th April 2015 by members of the Britannian Army. His crimes were the following: High Treason against the Empire, two counts of Murder in the First Degree, Trespassing on Government Secure Premises, Theft of Government Property, twelve counts of Murder in the Second Degree and misuse of Government Property."
Kallen looked at Zero in confusion.
"Was indeed guilty of all the above crimes."
"He did it all for Japan!"
"But he still killed fourteen Britannian military officers and attempted to steal a canister of poison gas."
"That doesn't matter!"
For the first time, Zero turned away from the ugly memorial and looked straight at Kallen. Despite his reflective sunglasses, she could still sense a great intensity about his gaze.
"Those fourteen men had families, friends... And your brother killed them."
"Don't give me that crap! You kill people every day!"
Zero turned away. His voice was almost too quiet to hear.
"And one day, I will pay the price for all that blood..."
Kallen's mouth dropped open. He had never sounded so... human. But then he looked back at her and it was like it had never happened.
"Was he not a murderer?"
"No! He was like... a soldier!"
Yes. That was how Naoto had always described himself. A soldier for a free Japan.
Zero's laugh was chilling. Cold and humourless.
"And what does a soldier need with a canister of Sarin Gas?"
"Sarin Gas. It's nasty stuff. If you inhale it or even if your skin makes contact, you will start to have difficulty breathing. Soon after, you will lose control of normal bodily functions and will vomit and defecate uncontrollably. Eventually, you will become comatose and ultimately die. All that can happen within a minute. There is no "dignity" about it, dying in a pool of vomit and shit."
Zero swept a disgusted hand at the gaudy marble of the memorial.
"What use could your brother have possibly had for such a weapon?"
The masked terrorist's description had shaken Kallen but that made her only more desperate to defend her brother.
"It was a threat! To persuade the Britannians to leave Japan..."
"A threat? But surely you must realise that to threaten, you must be prepared to go through with your threat?"
"He... He was not like that!"
"So, what? It was a bluff? He intended to defy an Empire by just bluffing?"
He laughed again. It was a horrible sound, streaked with deep veins of thinly veiled insanity.
"Naoto Kōzuki was not enough of a fool to believe that, we both can agree. So, I ask you again, Ms Kōzuki: was your brother deserving of the sentence handed down on him?"
"You are lying! I can see it! You still cling to your meaningless ideals... still resolutely think that your brother was a "good" person. But deep down, you understand that he was prepared to use such an awful weapon. And against who? Chemical weapons have no scruples. They do not care about who is the oppressor and who is the oppressed. They do not care about who is innocent and who is guilty. They just kill. There was no location anywhere in Japan where a release of Sarin would have killed more Britannians than Japanese. Your brother knew that. It did not stop him."
Kallen had fallen to her knees. Her usual anger had given way to appalled grief.
"Your brother was a monster."
Her voice was far quieter then before, barely discernable between her wracking sobs. Zero approached her and forced his face in front of hers.
"Do not think for a second that you are on the path of angels. In order to free Japan, to allow our children to be free, we must sacrifice more than just our sweat and blood but our conscience too. So, when you insist that you are following your brother's dream, a dream he and I shared, are you prepared to accept the consequences? Are you willing to defile your own soul to protect those of the unborn millions who come after us? We will kill innocents, terrorise the weak and ultimately wash the land clean with blood. We will produce a terror many times worse than anything Kururugi could ever dream of. But at the end, Japan will be free."
At that point, he stood and held up his hand. Kallen looked up at him for a moment. Then she took his outstretched hand and he pulled her to her feet. Though Zero's mouth was hidden beneath the mask, Kallen could sense a smile tugging at his lips.
"Welcome to the revolution, Kallen Kōzuki."
Juliet Symes was a quite astonishingly friendly girl. People could not help but be warmed by her smiles or moved by her laughter. It was quite literally impossible to maintain any sort of bad mood in her presence, such was her bright and cheerful nature. This also made it very easy for her to do her job, specifically the accumulation of intelligence. There were a lot of things about Juliet that were not what they seemed. For example, she worked for a pseudo-terrorist organisation devoted to the utter destruction of a single individual and she was the most capable intelligence gatherer in the entire group. Also, Juliet Symes was not her real name. But the streets of Kururugi Era Japan were not exactly safe for a girl called Euphemia li Britannia.
Right now, Euphemia was in the middle of chatting with a young Japanese soldier, one Staff Sergeant Kagesaki. It would be incorrect to say that Euphemia was seducing the Staff Sergeant. Sure, her looks came into play but it was a much more complex ploy than that. She was simply so... disarming in both her manner and her speech. Yet beneath all her charm, she possessed a rapier mind, honed by nineteen years spent with three of the most dangerous women the Britannian Military had ever produced: her step-mother Marianne, her sister Cornelia and her sister's long time friend Nonnette Enneagram. Her aversion to violence and natural talent for (in Marianne's words) "bending people twice around her little finger" made espionage a far more attractive option than (in Lady Enneagram's words) "charging into the enemy and fucking up their shit".
"But us Army guys... we don't go down so easy. So when the terrorist is standing over me laughing, I grab my knife real stealthy..."
Euphemia nodded, her lilac eyes wide in mock interest. Actually, it was taking all of Marianne's mental exercises to prevent her from pointing out the seventh successive plot-hole/tactical mistake/outright lie in his rambling story.
"Well, I'll save you the particulars but, rest assured, by the time I was done with him, that man was D-E-A-D!"
The girl made sure to giggle with the right mix of amazement and demure restraint that was guaranteed to send 90% of the male population into a near frenzy. She was not sure why but the more innocent she played, the more they seemed desperate to impress.
"But wherever was this? I never hear shooting over here..."
The soldier nodded.
"You wouldn't. All the real interesting stuff goes down in Kōtō."
He leaned in and whispered conspiratorially.
"I heard the local section chief got himself killed a few days ago. Some State Police guy called Arai."
She raised a hand to her mouth.
"Oh my! That's terrible!"
"I know. They say that Zero operates out of Kōtō."
If he had been looking at her face and not trying to sneak glances at her chest (tastefully covered unlike some of the town's more... promiscuous denizens), Kagesaki might have noticed a flicker of some indeterminable emotion in her lilac eyes. But by the time he returned his gaze to her face, all traces of it had gone and had been replaced by a masterful mix of fear and curiosity.
"Zero? The terrorist who is trying to overthrow Kururugi?"
"Yeah. But don't worry. We're going to crack down on him hard in a few days."
The Japanese man put an arm around her shoulder.
"We'll be sending in the Guren Mk 2 - those terrorists don't have a chance. So don't worry. We're the army and we'll protect you. I will protect you..."
Euphemia nodded, her mind far away. More precisely, it was back in their provisional headquarters in a basement apartment in Shibuya. While the place was quite spacious by modern Japanese standards, it got a little cramped, especially when Darlton brought his sons. The Darlton clan was strictly speaking based in an abandoned garage several blocks away, the same place they kept their knightmares. As was Guilford but that was only when his masculine insecurities got the better of his loyalty as a Knight of Honour and he let Euphemia, Cornelia and Nonnette have some "ladies time" on their own. Cornelia was naturally offended by her needing "ladies" anything, a fact that Nonnette teased her endlessly over. They would all be very interested to hear this latest titbit about Zero. Inwardly, Euphemia smirked.
Lady Marianne, she thought to herself, we may avenge you soon.
In the endlessly complicated (and now obsolete) world of Britannian noble hierarchy, a Viscount of an urbanised section of land in Seattle featured pretty low. Even a wealthy commoner could get away with only a polite nod of the head instead of a full bow that might be necessary upon meeting a Marquis or higher. Yet at the same time, every day of his life, Kewell Soresi had been told that he was special, one of the chosen few upon whose combined might the Empire was built upon. Such was the paradox that had come to dominate Kewell's life. Of course, this problem would have been easily averted if he had spent more time around the commoners he was supposed to rule but Britannian social protocol required him to cavort solely with members of his own demographic, an unfortunate twist of fate that produced the rather unique situation the former Viscount found himself. While most of the major nobility had enough money squirreled away to live comfortably or were killed outright during the Second Atlantic War, minor nobility like Kewell were left with nothing. Worse still, the Soresi Family Estate was in Seattle, a city which had fallen under the dominion of Vancouver. And this was when the contradictions began to catch up to him.
During his childhood, the intricate web of loyalties a noble was meant to be subject to had been hammered into his head. He had responsibilities to the Crown, to his fellow Nobles, to the Kewell Family, to his own chivalric honour and even to the people he ruled. Most of the major nobility had long since abandoned these principals in pursuit of personal profit but, as is often the case with these matters, the minor nobility continued to cling to them to compensate for their lack of any real clout beyond their name and rapidly shrinking estates. When the Twos and Europeans had marched into Seattle, Kewell had suffered a crisis. He had a duty to protect Britannia to his last breath; such was the decree of Empress Guinevere. But at the same time, he had a duty to lead his own people. While the Twos craved freedom, most Britannian commoners were far happier to be represented by their feudal lord than by some "democratic" politician. It was a rock of consistency in a world that was falling down around them and they had clung to him like shipwrecked sailors around a life preserver. Kewell had been loath to deny them that final piece of Britannian culture and had chosen to bow his head to the EU in order to preserve it. He had become the shift supervisor for a large sakuradite stripping plant in Lake City and, after a year or too, had come to enjoy simple civilian life far more than the cut-throat world of the Britannian upper class.
Suzaku had met him soon after arriving in Britannia. The Japanese boy had been looking for a place to sell his salvage and had happened across Kewell's plant. The ex-Viscount had almost turned Suzaku away (he harboured no goodwill towards the Japanese after they had killed the Eleventh's beloved commander) but he had recognised the shape of Suzaku's coat as a re-tailored version of the Ashford Academy uniform. Kewell's younger sister Marika had been a senior in Ashford at the time of the war and had been presumed dead after the Battle of Mt Hood. Filled with desperate hope about the survival of his missing sibling, Kewell had literally begged Suzaku for news of Academy and the boy, though more than a little shocked by the man's rapid change of heart, had told him that the student body were all still alive.
They had worked out a system. Kewell would buy all the salvage the Lancelot could haul and Suzaku would bring him news of his sister and carry letters between them. Well, Suzaku had been more than willing to do the service for free but Kewell's keen sense of honour prevented such a one-sided exchange so they had devised the current system. Over the course of several months, Kewell had developed a grudging respect for the young man. While his distrust of foreigners (and the Japanese especially) was far from dead, he could recognise a similar... chivalry about the way Suzaku did things that reminded him uncomfortably of himself. Suzaku too believed that Kewell, for all his gruff manner and internal confusion, was a kindred spirit: someone struggling to reassert their sense of right and wrong when everything they had previously believed was torn apart.
Still, Suzaku was pressing the bounds of their "friendship" when he appeared at the former-noble's home at three in the morning, covered in blood and escorted by three complete strangers.
Dr Helena Miles had far better things to be doing with her time than helping treat charity cases after hours with expensive medical equipment that really should be reserved for paying customers. Or so she repeatedly told herself while treating the strange boy Kewell's friends had dragged in. But, like many Britannians, she had a knee jerk reaction when it came to their feudal lord telling them to do things and plus, she probably would have ended up doing it anyway. The perils of taking ones Hippocratic Oath seriously...
Still, it was not all bad. The brown haired kid had offered to pay (although his offered sum was far below what she would have normally demanded for an infected gunshot wound) and the patient himself was pretty tough and had not continually demanded painkillers like some people she could mention. Apart from a minor infection in his arm, the wound was pretty simple and even with some basic antibiotics, the boy could recover within two weeks. A look from Kewell resulted in her giving him drugs which would get him back on his feet within a few days. For the hundredth time in as many seconds, Dr Miles cursed Kewell and his social rank and irresistible looks and... the rest would perhaps be better left within the confines of Dr Miles' imagination.
The patient, whose name was unknown to Kewell and the three other kids who accompanied him, was left in the lower ward (she was not about to leave an un-paying patient in the upper ward!). It was a pretty grim place, having been built solely to house all of the charity cases the doctor took in. The crowded bunks were filled to capacity and restless murmuring filled the room as patients and their families comforted each other even in sleep. As the five of them carried the unconscious boy to an open area by the window, they almost ran into a dark skinned woman wearing a torn pair of work overalls.
"I did it! I'm a Knight! That's minor nobility already."
Dr Miles hushed her, aware of that she might wake up the other patients.
The silver haired woman refused to calm down, instead doing a clumsy pirouette, her face filled with joy.
"Dame Nu! You will calm down this instant!"
Kewell's sharp tone prompted an immediate reaction. The woman snapped into a salute.
"Yes sir, Lord Kewell."
The man looked at her sadly for a moment before ordering her to bed. She complied without complaint and immediately lay down on her abandoned bed. Dr Miles reached between the sheets and removed a dirty vial of reddish liquid.
The three kids looked at it, innocent confusion on their faces. After they had placed the wounded boy on a bed and returned to the small but deserted corridor, the doctor gave them an explanation.
"It's a psycho-tropic. Makes you relive memories of the past. According to rumour, Britannia developed it back in the day to pacify the Areas. Now it's probably the most profitable business in the entire homeland. The ghettos here are full of users. All it does is create tragedy for the families and give the police more reason to crack down on us Britannians."
The girl almost teared up at that. Dr Miles wondered when was the last time she saw such childishness. In the ghettos, tears were just wasted effort. Even among the youngest children, there was an emptiness about them that pierced Miles' chest like an accusing finger. It was part of the reason she started taking in charity cases to begin with.
"That is... terrible."
The other two kids looked slightly strange. The dark haired one seemed to be deep in thought while the brown haired one had his hands clenched into fists. Then, the brown haired one stormed out of the building, his face dark with anger. His two companions ran after him. Lord Kewell made no attempts to stop them. Dr Miles gave him a questioning look and he shrugged as if to say "hey, they aren't my kids". But then his expression grew dramatically harder.
"You told me that she was off of that stuff."
Dr Miles bit her lip. Refrain addiction was a... difficult matter. Unlike most drugs, Refrain affects people deep in their Synapse Circuits. Over time, they become resistant to the increased Dopamine levels. If you deny them the drug, their Dopamine levels fall too rapidly and they can suffer memory loss and in extreme cases, the brain damage may spread to the hypothalamus, an event which inevitably leads to a slow, debilitating death. Of course, not many people understood that. All they saw was the doctors giving addicts more of the drug which ruined their lives in the first place. Dr Miles sighed and resigned herself to another sleepless night. Why did she feel the need to help people?
Vladivostok was the EU's only port on the Pacific and the headquarters for the entire Pacific Fleet. Before 1910, it was a relatively small city but the sakuradite boom of the mid twentieth century made it the main route for Japanese extracted sakuradite into Europe, especially after Britannia closed the Panama Canal to EU shipping after the Eleven Day War. Then Sawasaki signed the Treaty of Kyōto, seizing the assets of European based companies and handing them over to Britannian ones in exchange for the Empire's military assistance. Vladivostok was reduced, once more, to a military port. Urban decay began to set in and even the vast influx of military money to counter Britannian expansionism in the Pacific did little to reverse the process. But then in 2016 Sawasaki was overthrown and Kururugi was more than happy to sell sakuradite to the EU or indeed anyone who was willing to pay his extortionate prices. By the time the Seventh Army liberated Vancouver, Vladivostok had become the largest city in the Russian far-east with a population approaching three million. Since the fall of Britannia, it has only been growing larger and larger. It is Europe's pathway to her allies in the former Area 2 as well as the Sea of Japan and the most significant military presence of any city on EU soil, both to check the Chinese and for operations in Britannia.
And any port with a healthy military presence will always have one thing in near infinite supply: partially-inebriated military officials looking for a good time. Four such young men were just leaving their quarters, ready to enjoy their last few hours of leave before they were dispatched for "peace keeping operations" in the insurgent infested refugee cities of the former Britannian Empire. Despite being only a few years out of the Academy, they were all officers, a testament to the brutal officer attrition rates in the MEF and Britannia as well as the massive military expansion the EU was going through to keep the aforementioned locales out of Chinese and partisan hands (respectively). The leader of their group was one Diederik Iemker, a Dutch Captain who had visited the port once before and was very eager to be reacquainted with a certain establishment he had discovered, a type which flourished in towns like Vladivostok. The French call them "une maison close" but Diederik, being quite a forward man, simply referred to it as a "whorehouse". Unfortunately for the Dutchman (and to the badly concealed relief of two of his companions), they were stopped before they could leave by a large man in the uniform of a Warrant Officer, First Class. While the officers in their group all outranked him, (they ranged from a Major to a Lieutenant, Second Class), this man was clearly a veteran of the Second Atlantic War and definitely deserved some respect from the untested young officers.
One of the four (still slightly relieved about not having to visit "une maison close") stepped forward.
"The Colonel wants to see you."
The Russian Major glanced left and right but his three companions failed to offer anything but a few reassuring smiles and, in Diederik's case, a promise to "reserve one". Unfortunately for the Captain, his comment was overheard by the Warrant Officer's companion, a fellow Captain with sandy blonde hair and a faint scowl on her face.
"As Regimental Medical Officer for the 201rst, I would have thought that you would have better sense than to give half the Battalion HQ infections from one of the whorehouses in the city."
Then she smiled in a somewhat disturbing manner.
"Perhaps you would like to hone your skills by helping the woman in the town with their various ailments?"
The young Dutchman began to stutter a response but the blonde Captain already had an arm around his shoulder in a faux-friendly manner. Her smile only widened as she spoke over him.
"I think that is an inspired idea, Captain Iemker. We will head on down there straight away while the Colonel deals with Major Nikitin. I hear that there has been an outbreak of Candidiasis, you know, that yeast infection..."
While the blonde woman lead (or dragged) Nikitin's former companions out of the compound, the Warrant Officer introduced himself.
"Feliks Rajkowski. I will be serving as the Regimental Sergeant Major on the 201rst headquarters staff."
Nikitin took Rajkowski's offered hand.
The Warrant Officer smiled.
"And that was Captain Wheeler. She's the Colonel's adjutant and the scariest woman I have ever met. I think Captain Iemker will try and stay on her good side after tonight."
The Russian Major nodded, somewhat bemused by the rapid string of events. Rajkowski lead him back into the compound and towards one of the smaller presentation rooms. The lights were off and all they could see from the door was the outline of someone staring at a screen.
The man started slightly at the Warrant Officer's voice and turned.
He stood, knocking his chair back a little and offered a hand.
"Adler Erwin Rommel. I will be your commander during you tour of Briannia."
Nikitin nodded. He had heard that the 201rst Commander had been called away on BSO business and had missed the unit's founding ceremony. (Ex)Brigadier Genamann had presided over the ceremony instead.
"Here. I want to show you something."
The Colonel waved Nikitin over to the screen he had been gazing at. The Russian leaned in and the Colonel typed a command into the computer. The screen flickered slightly before revealing a slightly grainy video shifting in the swooping circular style of a UAV.
It showed a squad of eight men walking slowly through a pitted street. The buildings on either side were pockmarked by gunfire and some were burning, casting long nightmarish shadows. Shiny pools of inky blackness lingered like strange halos around collapsed bodies in strange white clothes. To the north of the squad there was a small plaza. Playing over the macabre video feed was the audio log for the unit in question.
Claymore 2, we have possible contact north of your position.
Copy that, Overlord. We'll verify.
The squad's relaxed but wary postures changed almost immediately into full battle readiness. They all checked their rifles and heavy visored helmets before moving out. With infinite caution, they picked their way through the rubble towards the plaza. After a few minutes, the eight men had set themselves up in firing positions all along the outside of the plaza.
No contact, Overlord.
A figure in the centre of the plaza stirred. It might have been mistaken for an odd shadow but it moved with all the vicious intent of a lion on the prowl.
Claymore 2, we have a visual on a hostile moving towards your position.
Nothing on the scope, Overlord.
The shadow moved steadily towards the soldiers, beginning to break into a loping run.
Contact moving towards you, Claymore 2!
We've got nothing, Overlord. Are your machines malfunctioning?
One of the soldiers stood to get a better view. The figure stopped just in front of him and made a movement as if brushing some lint off his front. For a moment, nothing happened. Then the man collapsed, a visceral spray of blood released from his jugular.
Overlord? What's going on?
Hurry! Concentrate fire on its position!
What are you talking about, Overlord?
It just took out your pointman!
Henri? What do you mean? He's fine.
The figure began to walk towards another soldier. The man was kneeling, his rifle braced on a fallen pile of bricks. With painful ease, the figure stepped over the barricade and drove a blade into the man's kidney.
The man collapsed to one side. His expression was one of grim faced determination. No surprise or pain or fear...
Are you another man down?
No. All eight men are accounted for.
There was a pause.
Something must be screwing with our sensors. Let me bring another UAV up.
There was a long burst of static on the screen before the scene reappeared, this time looking down from the south east. In the intervening time, another three soldiers had been cut down by the shadow. The three remaining looked completely unconcerned even though one of them was visibly splattered with his partner's blood.
Claymore 2? What's your status?
Everything is all right. Can I ask why you keep asking?
The camera input we're getting... it shows half your squad down.
That's the strangest thing I've ever heard. We're OK, aren't we Tomas?
One of the EU soldiers grabbed his partner by the shoulder, seemingly unaware that the man's throat had been cut so violently that it was lolling back at an almost ninety degree angle. Before command could say anything more, the shadow walked over to the last man.
Everyone seems perfectly...
On the screen, the shadow pulled its knife from the soldier and walked slowly away. Over the radio, the man's voice was ragged and pained.
...fine. Everything is fine...
The screen blinked and turned off.
Nikitin turned to his new commander, his face pale. Surely this was some kind of joke, a prank to be played on the newcomer?
"W-What was that?"
The Colonel smiled. It was not a ha-you-should-have-seen-your-face sort of smile but one that was almost sad, like how a parent might look when they first have to explain to their child that adults can make mistakes too.
"That is the 201rst very first objective."
Hooray! I finally have introduced all FIVE of the Memory Game's main plot lines: Lelouch and Nunnally, Kallen and Zero, Euphemia and Cornelia, Anya and Orange and the EU characters. Whew! Now we can get on with the meat of the story...
Now, I was wondering if there is anyone who is willing to beta read for me. My main worry is that the AU nature of the universe is harming my characterisations and I want to try and maintain some of the essence of the characters from the anime (otherwise, this isn't really a fanfic). If someone is willing to advise me on how I handle my characters (NB they may be exposed to spoilers) please send me a PM or mention something in a review and I will try and get back to you.
Thanks for reading.