Imperial Palace- Knights of the Round Hangar
Britannia- Morfran (Arizona)
Many of the vast palace's guards and personnel were preoccupied watching the news on television when a voice came over the intercom.
"Attention. This is Commander Darius Dalmaine. I want all active Knights of the Round geared up and at the Palace landing section in five minutes and all remaining Knightmares geared up and prepared for ground assault."
Felicia Victoria, the Knight of Five, sighed listlessly at the announcement in her private quarters. She stood up from her chair positioned in front of the television and shut it off. She wondered dully why Dalmaine had summoned her and her comrades as she slipped into her piloting clothes and quickly brushed her long black hair. He could have been more definite during his call over the intercom. Shrugging mentally, she left her quarters. In the corridor, other pilots were hurrying towards the hangar bay.
"Felicia," A soft, relaxed voice said from behind.
Felicia identified the young, female tone immediately. A short, teenage girl with pink hair caught up and walked alongside her.
"Anya. Do you know what's going on?" Felicia asked.
"I'm not sure," Anya Alstreim, the Knight of Six, said shaking her head. "Perhaps we're expecting a foreign visitor."
Felicia looked skeptical. She liked Anya but was surprised someone so young was a Knight of the Round. Felicia was quite young herself, having turned twenty only a few months ago. She got along well with the other Knights of the Round and with the exception of the bloodthirsty, and fortunately deceased, Luciano Bradley, they were all like family to her.
"I don't think Dalmaine would summon every pilot in the palace for just one visitor," Felicia said as the two pilots reached the bustling hangar bay.
"He does answer directly to her majesty." Anya replied as she approached the bulky Mordred. "Besides, with what's happening in Japan right now, I can't blame him for wanting us on full alert."
Felicia didn't respond, realizing Anya had a point. She had read a fair share of science fiction novels in her life but she never expected any contact with another form of intelligent life, at least not in her lifetime. As for Darius, he was a good leader but at times he didn't seem a suitable replacement to the two deceased pilots Bismarck Waldstein and Suzaku Kururugi.
She spotted Gino Weinberg and Darius Dalmaine conversing before heading for their Knightmare Frames, the ninth generation Tristan Divider and the ninth generation Sagramore respectively. Compared to the Tristan, the Sagramore was considerably taller and more heavily built. At six and a half meters tall and weighing in at twelve metric tons, it was the largest Knightmare Frame of the Knights of the Round. Its crimson red and white colored armor matched its broad armor and seemed to represent the impending danger of its lethal armament: two shoulder mounted hadron cannons, two wrist mounted slash harkens and one maser vibration sword strapped to its back.
Felicia's eighth generation Knightmare Frame on the other hand, the Igraine, was far more slender and somewhat elegant in appearance. Its scarlet armor glinted in the sunlight pouring through the open hangar door, giving it a luminous appearance. Its armament was also quite formidable: two wrist mounted slash harkens, a maser vibration fauchard strapped to its back and an energy cannon embedded in its chest.
Felicia clambered into the Igraine and activated the controls. The interior lights blinked and shined, illuminating the small space of the cockpit. Her hands worked swift and smoothly over the Igraine's controls, activating the air-glide wing system. Her view screen showed the remaining four Knights of the Round were also stirring as they gathered and glided out of the hangar bay. Felicia guided the Igraine out of the hangar and settled into diamond formation with her comrades with Dalmaine leading the way at the tip and Felicia on the right hand side.
Felicia turned on her communicator to Dalmaines channel.
"Sir, excuse my curiosity," Felicia said. "But why has the Empress summoned us to the landing pad?"
"If you must know," Dalmaine replied. "We've made contact with Kallen Kouzuki of the Black Knights of Japan. From what the Empress told me, she is escorting the occupants of the first UFO that crashed in Japan and the Empress has arranged a meeting with them."
Felicia wore a dubious look. She knew Empress Nunnally was quite competent as a ruler but it seemed rather reckless to trust the aliens so soon. From what she heard on the news, the passengers of the first UFO were seemingly trying to escape the invaders of Japan but as far as she knew, it could be a trick to throw the forces of Earth off guard.
Felicia picked up another signal on her radar and realized it was the Empress' aeriel cruiser, the Corbenic, confirming she was indeed heading for the landing section. It was wise of her to take her airship rather than wait at the Palace where she would be more vulnerable in case of invasion. Nevertheless, she still didn't trust the extraterrestrials on route to the palace.
Imperial-Class Star Destroyer-Decimator
Darth Vader could hardly keep his rage suppressed as he strode down the detention block with Admiral Dannis following behind. Cadet Corban stood at the far end of the corridor with two Imperial guards standing at his side. The young cadet wore a pale, wide eyed face as Vader got closer and closer until the Sith lord stopped only three feet away.
"Cadet Corban?" Vader inquired.
"Y-y-yes my lord…?" The terrified Cadet stuttered.
"From what I heard in your report, you were responsible for Kallen Kouzuki. And now she has escaped, along with any intelligence on us she may have obtained," Vader said as calmly as he could before raising one gloved hand towards Corban. "I hope you understand what this means."
"No! Please, Lord Vader! I…" Corban cried before his words turned to choking gasps in his throat.
Admiral Dannis watched in horror as Cadet Corban's lips and face turned purple, veins throbbing in his temples. Then, with a sickening, wet crunch, his windpipe was crushed and the Cadet crumpled to the floor. Vader gestured to the two guards, who swept up Corban's corpse and carried it off. Once they were gone, Vader turned his attention to Dannis, who was on the verge of soiling himself.
"Admiral," Vader said. "I want a full review on the hangar bay holocams. I suspect that the Jedi may have had help from the natives in their escape."
Dannis felt a rush of relief that Vader had spared him for the moment but knew that if he disappointed him again, chances were he wouldn't live to regret it.
"Yes, my lord," Dannis babbled and hurried off.
Imperial Palace- Landing Sector
The LAAT decelerated as it approached the landing pad. It tilted downwards then balanced as it hovered over the concrete surface and finished its landing. Alongside, the Guren deactivated its air-glide wing system and landed alongside the LAAT at the far end of the large landing pad.
"We've made it, Master Ahsoka," Captain Holan announced over the intercom.
"Roger that," Ahsoka replied then turned her gaze to Lelouch. "We can't go out there in Stormtrooper armor. They'll mistake us for Imperials."
"And we cannot go out there without it either," Lelouch replied, referring to CC and himself. "If they see our faces, they'll kill us without warning."
Ahsoka nodded in understanding, giving herself a mental kick for not thinking
"That won't be a problem, sir," Rex said. "We have blast helmets you can wear to disguise yourselves."
Lelouch nodded to Rex as the clone trooper retrieved a few emergency blast helmets with black visors from a locker in the back of the LAAT. After donning their helmets, Lelouch beckoned Ahsoka to open the side hatch of the LAAT. The crew all stepped outside, feeling the refreshing, natural warmth of the sun for the first time in several hours. Save the Guren and the two Coast Guard Sutherlands, they didn't see any other Knightmare Frames. To the left of the LAAT, Kallen climbed out of the Guren and joined up with the Crew without a word.
The crew waited a full minute until Empress Nunnally's ship and the Knights of the Round arrived. Black specks appeared in the sky and grew larger as the Corbenic and the four summoned Knights of the Round arrived. The Corbenics engines thrummed as it descended and landed gently in the center of the landing pad with the Knights of the Round guarding its flanks.
For a few moments, the landing pad was quiet. Neither the crew nor the Britannians said a word. Then Darius Dalmaine spoke.
"Attention, extraterrestrials. If you wish to speak to the Empress, discard any weapons you have before entering the airship before you."
The group did as they were told as they approached the lowered ramp of the Corbenic, handing over their blasters and lightsabers to the Britannian soldiers. They were very fortunate that they did not question Lelouch's or CC's disguises. The crew ascended the ramp, which closed behind them. The group walked down the main corridor. Two more armed guards stood at the door to Nunnally's private chamber
"We'll be in there with you. Don't try anything stupid or we'll shoot you, got that?" One of the guards snarled at Ahsoka.
"No need for that," Lelouch said as he casually removed the lens to his Geass eye and activated it. "Stay out here and let us speak to the Empress."
"Yes. Of course," Both guards said in unison as they stepped aside under Lelouch's influence.
Kallen gave Lelouch a half-smile.
As the group entered the room, Lelouch felt his heart pick up as he realized it would be the first time in eighteen months he would lay eyes on his beloved sister. At the far end of the room, Nunnally sat in her chair behind her desk with Suzaku under the guise of Zero at her side. For Lelouch, simply setting foot in the room was a large effort for him as he and his companions approached the young Empress' desk.
The room was silent for a few moments.
Ahsoka sensed puzzlement in Nunnally. Most likely the young Empress was surprised to see only Ahsoka and Ashla looked alien but the rest of the crew looked perfectly human in appearance.
Then the young Empress spoke.
"So, you are the extraterrestrials who arrived here first, correct?" Nunnally inquired.
"Yes, your highness," Ahsoka replied with a low bow. "My name is Ahsoka Tano. My companions and I are allies of a disestablished government known as the Galactic Republic."
"And why are you here?" Nunnally asked.
"We came to this planet seeking refuge from the Galactic Empire, which is essentially the Republic reorganized into a tyrannical monarchy. I, and my robed companions, am called a Jedi. We are the keepers of the peace throughout the galaxy but now the Emperor, Palpatine, has proclaimed us enemies of the Empire. We have been hunted down and nearly driven to extinction," Ahsoka explained thoroughly.
"I see," Nunnally said. "But why is this Emperor Palpatine against you?"
Ahsoka was silent. Once more, she would have to explain the Force.
Before she could respond, Lelouch spoke up.
"Their reason in being here is the least of your worries, your highness," Lelouch said. "Right now, the very existence of the human race may be threatened by this Galactic Empire."
Nunnally was taken aback. The voice sounded so familiar. But it couldn't be…
"Right now, it is your duty as Empress to ensure the safety and security of Britannia, and we shall aid you," Lelouch continued.
"Who are you?" Nunnally demanded.
Lelouch didn't hesitate. With a smooth motion, he removed the blast helmet and exposed his face.
Nunnally's eyes grew to the size of dinner plates, her mouth gaping open in a quick gasp.
For a split second, Suzaku could swear he was dreaming but the realization that Lelouch, alive and well, was standing before him struck him hard like a bullet.
"Lelouch…? But…it can't be…" Nunnally murmured.
"Beloved sister," Lelouch said softly. "I wish I had the time to explain everything, but time is a luxury we do not have right now. The Galactic Empire will not rest until they have apprehended Ahsoka and her Jedi companions and from what they told me, they will resort to any means to do so. If the empire succeeds in conquering the world, then everything I have done to make it a better place will have been in vain."
Nunnally simply gazed at her brother as he spoke, still partially paralyzed with disbelief.
"I must rally the people of the Earth against this new enemy. I must protect the peace that I have strived for in the past. I must become Zero again!"
Long seconds dragged by, but it felt like a century to Nunnally and Suzaku as they stood motionless.
Then Nunnally finally mustered the strength to speak again.
"Lelouch...I...don't understand...I saw you die...with my own two eyes," Nunnally said. "This is so unbelievable..."
"I understand you are confused, Nunnally," Lelouch said. "But even as we speak, the empire is searching for the Jedi. If they discover that we are here, the world must be ready for war. And I will lead them as Zero."
"Lelouch," Suzaku said at last.
Lelouch turned his attention to his old friend.
"I do not know why you are still alive," Suzaku said. "But I will comply. If what you say is true, then I will step down from the guise of Zero."
Lelouch mustered a half-smile.
"And I...I will trust that you will protect the Earth from this new enemy," Nunnally added. "As Empress of Britannia...I will support you in your efforts."
"Very good," Lelouch said. "Then there is no time to wase..."
Authors Note: I apologize for taking my time with this chapter. You know the drill. Just mention any mistakes I've made in the review section and I'll have the chapter fixed up in no time. Stay tuned.