Welp, it's back. I will admit that this chapter has been rather rough in both producing, but also in the writing in general. So it may not be to the best quality, but I hope that I at least did a good job telling the story here.
Flight of Two Swords
The reversion back to realspace in a starfighter had always been a queer feeling. A not-quite cancellation of the inertia of a faster-than-light transition in space that made you feel it, reminding you of just how small you were in the universe and how you were harnessing powers you were never truly meant to.
At least, that was always the feeling Suzaku Kururugi had as his TIE Defender exited hyperspace. Quickly dismissing the sensation, he double-checked his scopes, ensuring that his starfighter's status was green, before opening his comms.
"Form up, the Mobius should be here momentarily."
A pair of clicks were his only response as both of his wingmen gave their acknowledgement.
Where they were was simply recognized as XRT3J Alpha on stellar cartography maps, a desolate system with a white dwarf for a star. If the system wasn't so isolated, the massive asteroid field that dominated the system would have been prime real estate for exploitation of minerals.
What it was, however, was a likely place for pirates or other undesirables to hide, which was why it had been identified for recon. But it was the likely threat that existed in the system that resulted in his deployment as further support for the reconnaissance elements that served as Lelouch's eyes and ears.
But it was more than that, as his eyes drifted to his sensors, gaze focused upon the third TIE Defender in their flight, a last minute addition to this mission.
"I'm sorry, I think I misheard you, Lelouch," Suzaku drily commented, "you want me to what?!"
The grimace from his best friend told him that he hadn't been mistaken in his hearing, much to his chagrin. Instead, Lelouch seemed to gather himself up, ready for the inevitable fight that he seemed to realize his friend was about to make.
"I want you to take Kallen on your next sortie."
"Are you kriffing insane?!"
Instead of retorting, his friend stared him down, his gaze imperious, as if he were a peasant daring to question his liege. It was a look he hadn't seen from Lelouch in years, so while it was heartening to see the fire coming back to his friend, it did not take away from what he was being asked to do.
The history between himself and Kallen was...complicated to say the least. Scratch that, it was only an act of Kami that they hadn't killed one another in the two years. It had been a brutal, sordid affair driven by a mutual hatred that had only deepened as time went on, becoming such an obsession between the two that the final battle hadn't stopped when their knightmares had been disabled, but had continued into a duel with swords, then vicious hand-to-hand combat.
His left hand, his artificial hand, curled up into a fist at the memory. He rarely thought of the hand he lost in that fight, Rakshata's replacement perfect in almost every way, but when he did, it was because of her. While he bore her no ill will after that, as she had almost bled out in that fight, it was still difficult to move on from two years of hatred and bloodlust.
"You know perfectly well the animosity that exists between us, Lelouch. You are gambling with my life here. You know damn well what could happen if your little brain storm goes to shit, especially if something happens out there and she's not all right in the head."
The silence was deafening from his friend. If it were anyone else, he would have by now told them to go fuck themselves at such a hare-brained idea. But because of who it was, but also the confidence he had in his own skills, he sighed, shaking his head.
"Fine. I'll do it, Lelouch, but if she becomes a problem, I will put her down. It's what she would have wanted."
For a moment, he wondered if Lelouch would balk at such a statement, despite the fact that they both knew that Kallen would not want to be enslaved like this if it could be helped. But finally, he nodded, before taking his leave.
So far, though, despite the bristling reception he had received from the redhead when she joined him for the briefing, there had been nothing to indicate any sort of success in Lelouch's gamble.
Honestly, though, he wasn't sure if he wanted there to be success at this juncture.
That wasn't to say that he didn't wish for Kallen back. If it hadn't been for her, he shuddered to think what would have happened to the world under Lelouch's clinical ruthlessness. She had tempered his humanity, dragging him back from an abyss that would have been so much worse if it had continued.
But the problem was, Lelouch, despite how he may portray himself, was an emotionally intense person. He did a decent job in restraining it, but when the mask failed, the resultant explosion was the sort of thing that brought empires to their knees, as the Britannian Empire had found out firsthand.
And the mask was cracking.
However, he wasn't sure if Kallen's return at this time would be for the best. She had always been strident in her hatred of Britannia and everything it represented, and while she had made Lelouch promise to protect their home, could she accept that he had done so much more worse in the service of the Empire?
He was not so sure.
Nor was he certain that Lelouch had even fully considered the consequences in his quixotic quest to honor her last wish and now reclaim her. But if he had…
Shaking those dark thoughts out of his head, he refocused himself on the here and now. He would try and salvage from the fallout if and when it happened. It was pointless to dwell upon the maybes.
Which was of no use to him right now, as his console lit up with the alert of a new arrival as it exited hyperspace.
If there was any ship in the Imperial Fleet that Suzaku appreciated it was the Raider-class Corvette. At a hundred and fifty meters in length, it was a mean little ship with teeth that could give larger ships pause, armed with its complement of lasers, ion cannons, missile launchers, and starfighters.
But what the the Raider truly provided was force projection that much larger ships simply could not. Over the years, Lelouch had added dozens of the ships to his fleet, customizing them for roles far beyond their designed roles as picket ships.
The Mobius was one of those unique configurations, and probably the most dangerous of them in Lelouch's order of battle. Not in terms of martial prowess, becauset not all battles were won based upon firepower and tactics alone.
What made the Mobius dangerous was the many antennae that bristled along its hull, making it appear to be some sort of Frankensteinian hedgehog in regards to appearance. These antennae made the Mobius uniquely suited in its role of intelligence collection management through both signal and electronic intelligence gathering.
If Lelouch was a bloodhound, then the Foxhound variant of the Raider were his nose. Hypering into a target region, they would go into silent running with their uniquely baffled engines to reduce emissions and listen.
It was something that Lelouch had noted almost as soon as he was conscripted into the Empire, but the galaxy at large was notoriously bad at EMCON, or emissions control. Time and again, lousy emissions control allowed him to find his quarry more effectively than an entire fleet's worth of probe droids.
What the Foxhound specialized in was sniffing down these emissions, filter, decipher, and provide the veritable gold mine of information his prey would provide for their eventual destruction because they didn't know anyone was listening.
There was a certain morbid humor that Lelouch derived from this, Suzaku knew. For years, Lelouch had built up an infrastructure of information collection and analysis that had driven Britannia spare at how seemingly omniscient Zero and the Black Knights were, not realizing that it was their poor emissions security and their penchant to communicate in the open that was the cause of their defeat time and again. And now he was here in the larger galaxy, and information security and emissions control was even worse than it had been during his war with Britannia, providing him with unfettered battlespace control.
Foreknowledge is the difference between kings and and victims, Lelouch had once told him when he asked why he spent so much time and energy on something as lowly as information gathering. Of course, the smug bastard would steal from Sun Tzu and claim it as his own, but it was quintessentially Lelouch that he would do so.
But the sentiment was there, Lelouch ascribed his success to the fact that time and again, he knew his enemy's composition and intent before they were ever aware he was about to strike. It was this dominance that had led to some to believe he was omniscient.
The Mobius and her sisters were the key to that faux-omniscience. It was uniquely equipped with the best sensors and surveillance technology the Empire could offer, providing the critical information that he needed in order to implement his battle strategies. But it was also the means for him to hunt the prey that would try to hide from his gaze.
Normally, the Mobius and her brethren would be deployed by themselves. But because of the fact that they were in an active combat region, they were provided with an escort. Normally, this would be a quartet of Assault Gunboats equipped for the suppression of enemy starfighters, with another squadron of Assault Gunboats on call equipped for anti-shipping. However, Lelouch had given this mission to Suzaku because it would provide him more flight time not only with his TIE Defender, but also to acclimate Maarek Steele in the Defender's operations. Kyrene/Kallen had only been added in at the last moment.
"Lancelot Lead, this is Mobius Actual, we're beginning our system-wide scan, please standby."
There was no need to acknowledge, both because it was redundant, but also it would only increase the chance of their emissions being detected despite everything being done in tightbeam, which minimized the emission to its absolute lowest while able to transmit voice and data.
Besides, they had all been briefed on the mission profile, so what remained was to go through their escort waypoints while the Mobius did her job.
With one last glance at the Mobius, he did an end over and began going through the preplotted waypoints for their escort mission.
There were few things that brought any sort of pleasure in the life of Kyrene Roux, and those that she deigned to acknowledge could be counted with two fingers. The first being the sense of accomplishment and pleasure in fulfilling a mission for the Emperor, there was nothing more fulfilling to have his approval for her successes.
The second, however, was the act of piloting that elicited something else entirely within her. When she piloted she felt like she was reconnecting with something she lost. That she belonged behind the controls, as if she were more incomplete without it than she was. Piloting was a balm upon her soul. And over the years, between training and missions, she had logged as many hours as she could either in the simulators or the actual cockpit.
So while the TIE Defender was a much different beast to her Interceptor, or even her private ship gifted to her by the Emperor, the Black Lotus it did not take away what should have been the feeling of liberation of being back in the cockpit.
Instead, it felt like a steel prison and the blame could be placed solely at the current source of her vexation: Grand Admiral Lelouch Lamperouge.
Somehow he had not only known of her love of piloting, but that she would be unable to resist the offer to pilot the third TIE Defender in his possession. How he knew any of this escaped her, only added to her agitation at the man.
You know how he knows, came a whisper that sounded hauntingly like herself, causing the synthetic material that clad her hands to creak in protest as they tightened on the controls of the Defender.
And then there was the voice. Ever since she had laid eyes upon him, a voice that sounded like her own had plagued her, whispering things about knowing, about how everything was a lie, and how she must protect the Grand Admiral. If she didn't know the Grand Admiral's unique ability and was immune to it, she would have believed that he had done something to her.
It was quite possible that he had done something to her, but until she could ascertain what it was, there was no point in reporting it. If there was one thing that the displeased the Emperor, it was weakness, and she would not show weakness in front of the man who had given her life from the death she had been destined to have.
And yet you're a slave and refuse to it.
"Shut up," she snarled through clenched teeth, wanting nothing more to silence that voice.
Then you better turn that shiny lightsaber on yourself, came the smug response, your continued apathy to the truth will lead not only to your death, but the deaths of everyone you hold dear. But you already know that…
"I. Said. SHUT. UP!," she roared, her careful grasp of emotions snapping, exploding into a consuming inferno that felt oh so good, yet entirely wrong at the same time. It was in that furnace that she felt something give ever-so-slightly and as The Voice faded away the satisfaction evident in her last parting shot.
As you wish…
And then it was gone, leaving her breathing raggedly, exhaustion nibbling at the edges as if she had just run a marathon, sweat dripping into her eyes stinging them and only adding further insult to her situation. Slumping forward in the command couch, she fought to regain her breathing, the vacuum-sealed pilot suit necessary for TIE pilots providing its own echo chamber, further adding to the mockery that had become her mind.
It was getting worse, she thought angrily as she slowly brought herself back under control, even as she unconsciously maintained her Defender in formation with Kururugi's. Whatever it was that Lamperouge had done to her was only getting worse. This traitorous voice that was gnawing at her self-control and attempting to lead her astray.
What was it? She didn't want to admit it, but it didn't feel artificial, like some sort of suggestion implanted into her subconscious. It felt strangely natural, as if it was some part of her that was surfacing, but that didn't make sense, as the only that had changed was Lamperouge's presence.
Was the Emperor wrong in the Lamperouge? Was there something more than this Geass that Lamperouge had? The man was certainly wily enough to maybe having found something more that may actually affect someone like her. But why her? Was the man's obsession with his dead fiance that deep-seated that he would go to such extreme lengths?
No, that wasn't Lelouch…
She blinked at the usage of his name. It was always Lamperouge, never his first name. Why would she refer to him with such familiarity. There was no reason to do so, the man was a nobody to her. Just another cog in the Imperial war machine in the service of their Emperor.
Just what was it that the Emperor had withheld from her?
With the audible click of her tongue, she quickly buried the treasonous thought and locked it away, refusing to acknowledge or analyze it. She was the Emperor's Hand, not some easily swayed Outer Rim hick. And it would be a cold day on Malachor before she allowed Lamperouge's manipulations to seduce her away from her debt to the Emperor.
Once she got back to the Ineluctable, she would deal with these thoughts properly and still them forever. And once she did that, she would do what she should have done in the first…
Her thoughts were suddenly cut off as she felt it.
"Mobius Actual, Lancelot Lead, cease all operations and prepare to jump to Staging Point Resh" Kururugi's voice sounded in her ears, "we're about to have company."
Had he sensed it as well, she wondered to herself even as she switched the Defender to full military power settings, the dull whine of the I-s4d solar ionization reactor becoming a roar that seemed to vibrate her entire being as weapons and shields rapidly topped off.
The thought the Kururugi may be a Force-sensitive was laughable, as if he were, then he would have either been inducted into the Secret Order or quietly eliminated. Yet the nagging feeling that this was yet another layer to the game being played by Lamperouge would not escape her.
"Lancelot Lead, Mobius Actual, there's nothing on our scopes here. Are you sure?"
As soon as he asked, her sensors blared a warning, as out of the asteroids came a ship followed by several starfighters.
At a distance, the sensors were positively identifying the ship as an Action VI transport, but the readings were all wrong, the power…
Suzaku's curse in his native tongue that she somehow recognized filled the communications even as she realized what the ship was.
"Kuso! Mobius, Code Edinburgh. I repeat, Code Edinburgh, that's a Zann Interceptor-IV, spool up your hyperdrive now!"
Tyber Zann was a name she was familiar with, both as her role as the Emperor's Hand, but also in her brief on Grand Admiral Lamperouge. Suffice to say, Tyber Zann and Lamperouge went back several years, when then-Commander had broken up several of the Zann Consortium's operations. If there was anyone that Tyber Zann despised more than his father, then it was the Grand Admiral. Over the years, there had been several engagements between the Grand Admiral and Zann, usually ending up with Zann suffering a tactical defeat, but winning a larger strategic victory through his disruption or inconveniencing Lamperouge's ongoing operations.
"Negative, Lancelot. Negative. We're detecting mass shadows on our exit point. We are unable to enter hyperspace until they disappear."
Obviously something had changed, it appeared.
With the usage of whatever was generating the mass shadow, it meant they were all stuck here, and depending on the size of the mass shadow, they were cut off from reinforcements as well, she thought darkly. From what she knew, the Zann Consortium did not have access to any Interdictor Cruisers, which they would have detected before it was able to bring up its gravity well projectors. That meant that it was likely a pulsemass mine, which was a Hapes' Consortium weapon as far as she knew. How Tyber got his hands on a technology that was as zealously guarded as it was by the Hapan's was something Imperial Intelligence would have to look into.
But that was for after surviving this ambush. Already the fighters were accelerating ahead of the frigate, a mixture of T-Wings, Razer fighters, and R-41 Starchasers. On their own no match for a Defender, but in a group like this...
"Three, with me," Kururugi's voice cut her thoughts like a vibroblade, focused and sharp, his Defender spinning and accelerating away and towards the oncoming fighters, she immediately took off in pursuit of him, "Two, protect the Mobius and deal with any that get by us."
"Three, you familiar with the Rashon Weave?"
She grimaced. The Rashon Weave was a maneuver developed by Civé Rashon as a means for TIE pilots to break missile acquisition sensors in a frontal engagement with warhead equipped enemy starfighters. How this was achieved required precise and tight weaving between two TIEs in such a manner that the sensors defaulted every time the sensor contact 'merged' and then broke apart.
The only downside to it was that it was an extremely advanced maneuver where the slightest error would kill the pilots as surely as the missiles that they were trying to spoof as the close proximity of the maneuver left no room for it, lest they collide.
"Good. On my mark, we're going to do a Rashon Weave with a Murne Twist. We need to break their formation or this is going to be a damned short engagement."
As the range gated down, she knew there was no choice in the matter, as another squadron of fighters was now coming out of the asteroids, leaving the odds significantly in their disfavor.
As the warning system began detecting the telltale sign of an active sweep of missile acquisition systems, Kururugi snapped a terse, "Mark."
And she began spinning, weaving in and out between herself and Kururugi, with each replacing the other at the front. With only a scant few meters between the two, they continued this intricate corkscrew-like maneuver even as the range closed. If they weren't so intensely focused on the maneuver itself, Kyrene would have faltered at the sensation of her brush of the Force against Kururugi being willingly accepted, a connection forming between the two of them as their maneuver ceased being two individuals and became one unit.
And for a moment of brilliant clarity, the mix of R-41 Starchasers, T-Wings, and Razer Fighters became TIES, and Kururugi's TIE became some sort of bipedal mechanized unit with glowing green wings jutting out its back, innumerable Star Destroyers in the distance.
"Now," Kururugi's voice snapped the illusion as he began firing, verdant green, electric blue flashing out of their ports towards their attackers, even as the return fire came towards them, blood red and electric blue, "Break."
Only they were not there anymore, both breaking into seperate directions, their first victims too slow to react, the combined fusillade claiming two, even as she continued the spiralling corkscrew outward, her thumbs not letting up on the triggers.
The damage was done, the R-41 and T-Wing's lack of maneuverability hampered their ability to acquire their prey in the maneuver, with only the Razers only barely keeping up for a moment before the closing distance negated it. Then they were past, already banking around, with the Zann fighters breaking formation and taking off for them, an additional quartet of their brethren flaming wrecks.
The entire maneuver only took seconds to complete, and as Kyrene banked around, she noted that she only seemed to have taken two or three hits, the shields only losing a quarter of their overall strength. She then found herself with a T-Wing desperately trying to turn up and into her, only to unfortunately come into her gunsights. A fire-linked sextet of beams finished his manueve for eternity, his fighter becoming a molten coffin as it flew past her.
The shrill warning caused her to bank hard right, inertia digging her into the command couch. A fusillade of beams intersecting where she had just been, but that hadn't been the warning, as she toggled a switch, deploying a mixture of chaff and flares out of the back of the Defender to spoof the missile that had launched at her. The missile darted past her cockpit harmlessly, sparking as it had run into a cloud of the chaff she had deployed, crippling the electronics on the weapon. .
However, she didn't have a moment of relief, instead pulling hard on the control yoke and bringing a Razer into her HUD. With a flick of her thumb, she toggled off the fire-linked cannons, instead choosing to stutter fire them, green and blue impacting a faint blue sphere before a single green beam tore through the right wing, shearing it off and a single blue beam finished the rest, leaving it flying ballistic as its systems died. But she didn't even have the time to know that had happened, as she completed her own maneuver, yo-yoing back and forth and then going into a dive.
"Three, break right."
She didn't even question the command, immediately breaking right, just in time to see the broken and burning remains of a Starchaser pass by her, followed by Kururugi's Defender. Guided by the Force, she immediately turned in, just in time to depot a missile into a passing Razer, the fighter exploded pieces impacting its wingman, draining its shields. An afterthought deposited a laser into its cockpit, before she banked up and away.
She didn't offer a response, instead focusing on the T-Wing that had slipped in behind her, lasers impacting heavily against the shields, warnings on her HUD alerting her at the depletion. With a lurch, she ramped back the throttle, bleeding off energy even as she redlined the maneuvering jets, rotating her cockpit upwards just in time for the T-Wing to meander its way into her sights. It didn't live much longer after that, lasers quicky overwhelming the fighter's porous shields and slagging it.
Without a moment's hesitation, she slammed the throttle back forward, dumping chaff and flares even as the sudden acceleration caused her vision to grey. She reduced her laser recharge and bumped up her shield recharge, shunting power from her lasers to her shields in order to replenish some of what she lost, the blinking red that had been her rear shields becoming a healthy green.
There was a sense of perfection about all of this, she thought as another Razer was annihilated with a surgical application of emerald-green beams of coherent energy supplied by herself. The rush of battle, the joy of flying, the satisfaction of defeating her enemies, the sense of fulfillment at the approval she received for her success…
It was if she were once again Lelouch's sword.
Her body froze as everything in her mind screeched to a halt. All that remained of her was a sort of quasi-recognition of rightness in that thought, fought desperately by the more conscious part of her at how wrong it was. Yet, the desperate the struggle, despite everything that was Kyrene Roux, it quailed in the light of that singular thought.
"JINK HARD, THREE!"
Unconscious ingrained reflex dashed all of that, as she yanked hard on the control yoke, just as a turbolaser flashed through where she was. Yet her maneuver didn't end, as with an even tighter turn, she righted herself on an attack path towards the offender, only one thing now in her mind.
She felt violated, all of these thoughts, these errant feelings, gnawing away like a piranha beetle at her sanity. Confusing her. Weakening her. Robbing her of the very essence of who she was. What she was.
"Why," she screamed, even as the alarms went off in her cockpit, warning her that her shields were critically low, her weapons joined in her rage at everything. The beams of green and blue splashing against the Interceptor IV's shields, the previously invisible baring glowing brighter and brighter, its point defense weapons returning fighter angril towards her, even as she bobbed and weaved. The barrier then disappeared and white-hot plasma and ionized particles impacted naked duralloy and ferroceramic, vaporizing and exposing the inside to vacuum in the case of the former; ionizing and overloading electronics in a skittering of electric blue energy in the latter.
It was with an after-thought, she ripple fired her concussion missiles, depositing them into the compromised hull of the Interceptor IV, and wreathing it in explosions before dove under and away, the ship snapping in half as the structure could no longer maintain its integrity and the concussion missiles merely finished what had already been done.
"Why," came the second, soul-wrenching whisper that held so much more than what could simply be expressed. Before grimacing, closing her left eye as it began to burn...
Suzaku had only given half a thought to death of the Interceptor, even as he worked to finish off the rest of the Zann starfighters. He had lost count at how many he had killed, knowing that his gun cameras would provide it at the end of all of this.
No, his focus was split by his job, and the sensation that he still felt at the edge of his perception, from his link with Kallen..
Oh, there was no doubt in his mind now, despite his misgivings and hopes, that Kyrene Roux was Kallen Kozuki. It was a gift that he had honed over the years during his years both as a Knightmare pilot, and then later as a TIE pilot. He had never had a word to describe what it was, this weird sense of precognition and influence upon both his allies and friends until he had become a servant of the Empire. But once it did, it explained so much about him.
Somehow, someway, he was Force-sensitive, gifted with the unique ability to tap an energy force that seemed to permeate in every living thing. It was doubtful he would ever be able to do anything like persuading the weak-minded, or toss things without touching them, or shoot lightning from his hands, but he was perfectly fine with that. He was quite happy with what he had, because it made him one of the best at what he did.
Of course, Palpatine knew about it, but he had humored Lelouch in allowing him to continue to exist, untainted by the Secret Order, both probably because he just didn't have what was needed, but also because it would be a waste to make him something that he was not.
Yet that link, despite whatever Kallen was doing, could sense...conflict? Rage? It was so much it was nearly indecipherable. Yet whatever it was, he could feel just a bit of her. He wasn't sure whether he should be relieved or worried.
He was not a schemer, he didn't have the subtlety or long-term planning necessary to achieve it. But he was capable enough to recognize the dangerous game his friend seemed only to escalate further. Kallen, Kyrene, whoever she was at this moment, was under the yoke of the Emperor, and he had seen enough to know that the man would not take Lelouch's manipulations of his Hand lightly, there was less to be said about whatever had been done to replace Kallen's personality. All it would take was one small misstep and they were both dead men, with Earth paying whatever price. That was, if it hadn't already.
But, while he would never publicly admit it, partially out of a survival instinct that he had cultivated once he had stopped being a naive and short-sighted idiot with a martyr complex (something he would forever be grateful to Cecile for), but he, like Lelouch, chafed under the yoke of their taskmaster. Sure, he did an excellent job in hiding it, partially through never acknowledging it unless he was alone with Lelouch, but also through simply living life. After all, if one did not take the time to enjoy life, then they would not have something to fight for regardless.
That was not to say that he was apathetic to the situation. There had been no doubt in his mind that it was only a matter of time before Lelouch would rebel against the Emperor, but he had given it a few more years before that happened. Lelouch may not necessarily be conscious of it, but while he had been viewed as an undesirable by many of the upper echelons of Imperial High Command, he was extremely popular with the rank and file as his various reform had become a slow trickle simply through the fact that they were successful. Of course, those changes were only made half-hearted and would always be a pale shade to what would be integrated into the rest of the Empire, but they were changes nonetheless.
If given a few more years, there may have just been that sort of uprising necessary to break the back of the Empire, as Lelouch's network grew with both rank and file, but also some well-placed and capable commanders as well flocking to his banners.
Alas, just like everything else dealing with Kallen, Lelouch's reckless side was rearing its ugly head again. It had almost been the death of both of them several times in the last days of the Black Rebellion, as Lelouch wouldn't (or coudn't, as he personally believed) separate himself from the passion and feelings of their relationship. His obsessive fixation, which was what it was, upon Kalen, had both been an asset and liability in those last days, to where it had taken Kallen putting her foot down and reining it in.
But there was no Kallen here to do that, and he honestly didn't have the ability to make Lelouch listen, despite their relationship. Such was the power that Kallen had over Lelouch. That was likely why he had even agreed to any of this, because he did want Kallen back, if at least to rein in his friend's impulsive nature when it came to things such as emotions.
Which, appeared to be working, though, if there was one thing he had learned with Lelouch over the years, it was that nothing should ever be taken for granted. And with Lord Vader on their ship...well…
As the R-41 exploded in front of him, he let out a deep sigh, his sensors showing no more hostiles in range, and in the distance, Kallen's Defender was slowly meandering its way back to to them.
"Status check," he called out, out of his duty as the commander of this flight more than anything else.
"Two here. Three kills. No damage. Down to three missiles. Mobius reporting that its scopes are clear."
Not bad, he thought to himself. It seemed the addition of Maarek Stele into his command was going to be one of those wise investment. It remained to be seen how much of an investment it would be, considering that he had only been given whatever remnants got to the Mobius, but it was a start at least.
It was the silence at the other and that worried him, as Kallen/Kyrene still hadn't responded yet. This was honestly a more difficult situation, as while he nominally outranked her, as the Emperor's Hand, it was technically the other way.
"No damage," came the succinct reply, causing him to frown both at the emotion he could feel, and the tone in her voice. However, rather than press the issue, and quite possibly overstepping his bounds, he acknowledged it and dropped the subject.
"Mobius Actual, Lancelot Lead, status report?"
"We took a few turbolaser hits, but nothing more. We're still unable to enter hyperspace thanks to the mines."
"Understood. I want you to resume operations. Those mines should be running out of power soon enough. I want to know what may be hidden out here that would cause Zann to want to jump us."
It's probably nothing, but I'd rather be thorough than have it bite us in the ass, he thought to himself. He had learned always to expect the unexpected. It was likely an ambush planned by Zann that just had his forces sit out here in wait, but it could also be something more detailed. Better to be safe than sorry.
"Roger that, Lancelot Lead. Our compliments to your pilots. You put on a pretty good show."
"No problem. Just doing our jobs, Mobius Actual. Lancelot out."
With that, he cut the line, bringing back his focus to Kallen's TIE Defender, both thankful for her continued safety, but unable to shake a feeling settling into his gut that what happened here was only going to make things much, much, more complicated before it was all over.
He wasn't comfortable with that feeling, either.
Why does everything involving those two have to be so damned complicated, he moaned internally, before programming in a series of waypoints meant to continue their mission.