I don't own Code Geass.
Tokyo, Japan- December 10, 2022
Major Kallen Kozuki, last surviving member of the Zero Squadron, gritted her teeth in frustration. The Guren Seiten's energy filler beeped a steady alarm at 12 percent remaining capacity, a constant nuisance as Kallen attempted to assess the situation at hand. According to her onboard map, the last three explosions had taken out a good third of the UFN forces, the IFF beacons of well over two hundred Akatsuki frames signaling as "LOST" on the screen. Kallen grimaced. In addition to the loss of a substantial amount of KMF's, three regiments of infantry and a pair of grounded Knightmare battalions had been incinerated, allowing the Britannian forces to advance down six more blocks. She realized with a moment of heartache that that was where Tamaki's unit had been.
Just one more lost to that bastard prince, she thought angrily, angling her Knightmare back toward the Ikaruga. Tamaki, Minami, Todoh, Chiba, Li Xingke, Tianzi, Kaguya. The names rattled off within her mind, reminding her of all of the friends she had lost in the past eighteen months. And that's not even mentioning the Student Council, Kallen thought bitterly, remembering how Milly had been shot during the Fall of Paris, and how Rivalz was lynched during the height of the Anti-Britannian Riots near the end of 2021.
And of course, she amended, Zero.
How did things get so screwed up, she wondered. Where did it all fall apart? Wasn't Zero Requiem supposed to fix this, supposed to bring lasting world peace?
Wasn't the world supposed to have its gentle future?
She shook herself out of her musing. It didn't matter now. Whatever path had brought them to this living Hell, it was in the past. All that mattered now was them fixing it.
"Ohgi," Kallen said into the mic," I need a refit. Requesting permission to land."
"Confirmed, Major, proceed to Hangar Three. We'll have crew waiting for you."
"Roger." Kallen cut the comm panel, adjusting the yoke on the Guren in order to improve her incoming approach.
It was hectic when she finally landed inside the hanger, ground crews sprinting left and right, working on multiple frames at once. She noticed that most of the outgoing Frames were leaving with their energy fillers largely untouched. Jumping out of the cockpit, she waited for her own group of engineers to begin toiling on the Guren before speaking to the crew chief.
"Hey, Minato, why is it most of the Akatsukis aren't being refilled?"
The crew chief gave her a look before saying," Not enough to spare. Sakuradite's hard to come by these days, and Prime Minister Ohgi has been saving the few we have for Aces."
Like me, Kallen thought, barely suppressing a sigh. She stepped away from her KMF and let the team get to work on the refit, and sat down on one of the large crates nearby. A passing dock hand was kind enough to hand her a water bottle as he passed, giving her no time to time to refuse it before rushing off.
Probably Ohgi's doing. The thought comforted Kallen, reassured that at least some things never changed. Ohgi had never truly stopped being overprotective of Kallen, always treating her like a little sister even after Viletta had given birth to their twins. In some ways Kallen was grateful for that, glad to know that someone was always looking after her. In others it irritated her, especially when she had been trying to live her own life after moving out of her mother's house and Ohgi had seen fit to rent her out an apartment despite her requests that he not. Sometimes the way he mothered her just got to her. Fortunately, this was not one of those times.
Turning away from those thoughts, Kallen turned her attention to the bottle held loosely in her hand, gazing at the reflection that stared back at her. One thought ran through her mind.
I look terrible. She took in the worry lines creasing her brow, the pronounced bags around her eyes, and the various scars she had picked up in the last few battles. Two cut through her mouth from when a panel inside the Guren had shattered, metal and glass cutting down through her lips; a small one from a knife crossed its way across the far corner of her right eye, slashing into the finely arched eyebrow above. But the one that really drew her attention was the mottled and wrinkled burn that caught her left eye and seared its way into her hair, a souvenir from the car bomb that had killed Kaguya and had nearly killed her.
She brushed the hair back a little bit self-consciously. Would you mind how I look, Lelouch? The question was an honest one, and one she doubted any of the others would like hearing. Or would you think that I'm being a little vain? She asked with an amused smile. It was a habit these days, speaking to him as if he were there, imagining his answers, carrying on one-sided conversations with him. It comforted her on some level, even though she knew he couldn't answer. Even though he would never answer.
The smile dropped from her face. I'm sorry, she sent to him, I'm sorry for fouling things up so badly, for making your sacrifice meaningless. I was supposed to protect the world you created and I blew it.
"Major!" Minato shouted, drawing Kallen out of her reverie." We've got her nice and ready for ya if you're ready to get moving."
Kallen nodded, setting the undrunk water onto the crate as she moved forward. "I am," she said, climbing into the Guren and powering it on. After double checking her system readings, she lifted off, soaring out of the hangar bay and back into the fight.
Prince Schneizel el Britannia gazed with an undisguised smirk at the battle map. The UFN forces, though it really should just be called the Black Knights plus the Chinese Remnant at this point, had sustained major losses from the bombing run enacted by the Avalon, and now the various squadrons were beginning to break. Official retreat had not been called yet, he could tell, but it was obvious the momentum shift was toward him. Another careful push and the enemy would crumble.
"It's quite the lovely sight isn't it, Your Highness?" Schneizel said in a tone of polite mockery to the young girl sitting next to him. He glanced at her out of his peripheral vision, his eyes bright with merriment. Empress Nunnally vi Britannia, 100th Empress of the Holy Britannian Empire, glared at him with hostility, ignoring the flashes of light that signaled the Knightmare combat taking place just outside the viewport.
"I hardly find the view as pleasant as you do, brother." She said "brother" as if it were a curse, hurling it at him in a voice filled with contempt. "People are dying out there, and you find it entertaining."
"Not at all, dear sister," Schneizel said with affected pain." I'm merely satisfied that we are but one step closer to world peace."
"We already had world peace," Nunnally rebutted angrily. "Peace bought with my brother's life. A peace that you have torn asunder."
"It was a false peace Your Highness, built on a foundation made weak by lies and arrogance. I have merely exploited those weaknesses in order to produce a much more desirable outcome."
"And what outcome is that? One of tyranny, of world domination, of a planet ruled through fear. Mankind will never know true peace, true brotherhood, in the Hell you wish to create."
"Did the world know such things in the false life the Demon created? Did wars stop in their tracks, never to begin again? Did fanatics suddenly see the error of their ways and lay down their weapons? Oh yes, it was most certainly a much more peaceful world, dear sister, and Paradise was remade on Earth."
"It was not perfect, of that there is no question, but it is certainly better than what you are doing now!"
"So you admit at last that the world of old, the world of the Demon, was but the lesser of two evils? Not to worry Your Highness. The world I am creating here and now will not have to fear evil of any sort. It shall be eradicated from the face of this planet, and all men shall know peace."
"The oppression of a tyrant, nothing more," Nunnally said, her voice a mixture of exhaustion and sorrow. Schneizel chose not to respond, his attention returning to the battle. The Guren Seiten and its legendary pilot had returned to the field and already it was causing havoc among his lines. Fifteen "LOST" signals had blossomed on the screen, and more were sure to follow. His advance seemed to be stalling. Schneizel clicked on his communications link.
"Sir Weinburg, are you ready?" He asked, a cold smile worming its way across his face.
"Yes Your Highness," came the voice on the other end.
"Then launch. The Guren has returned to the field. Keep her occupied while we make the final adjustments."
"Understood." The comm switched off immediately, causing Schneizel to chuckle.
Here's where the fun begins.
"Die you bastard!" Kallen roared as she ignited the Radiant Wave Surger, melting away the cockpit of a pilot that had gotten too close. She sent the Guren through the resulting explosion, using it as a small shroud as she blasted into the two behind it, firing off her slash harken into the first's wingspan, sending it in free fall towards the ground below, and grabbing the other by its factsphere, crushing it like a bug before letting it go and allowing the pilot to eject. Kallen spun the Guren in a 360 degree turn, looking for more enemies.
When she had first come out of the hangar they had swarmed her, forcing her to blast through them, tearing off limps and shearing through the various platforms, not bothering to watch them drop as she moved closer to the center of the battle. From there it had been a maelstrom of activity, either melting or tearing through the Britannian Sutherlands as she helped the beleaguered allied units, putting a stop to the Britannian offensive.
Now however it seemed the Britannians had wised up, fleeing from whichever area she happened to reinforce, giving the Black Knight pilots a few moments to rest, but returning like cockroaches whenever she left.
It can't go on like this, Kallen thought. Black Knight KMF's were already beginning to drop from the sky, the pilots ejecting from their units and parachuting down to the surface below. No matter how many they dropped, more kept coming, and they didn't have the resources to keep killing them. At this rate, they'll overwhelm us for sure.
She began to turn back to the field when she felt it. A sudden tremor of danger, senses honed by years of warfare and countless battles. Kallen surged the Guren straight up, back flipping to avoid the large bladed weapon that had nearly slashed her through. She righted the Frame, curving around to face her opponent, and couldn't help but feel a sense of heartbreak.
Hovering before her was the Tristan in all of its glory, and Kallen knew of only one man that piloted it.
"Gino," she called out," long time no see."
"I know right? I just wish it was under different circumstance," Gino responded back, his words playful but his voice serious, a once rare tone that seemed to have become all too common in recent days. "I've been tasked with bringing you down. Hope you don't mind."
"We don't have to do this Gino," Kallen pleaded." You know this is wrong. Join us, we can protect her."
"She's on board the Avalon Kallen. Not exactly the best place for a rescue mission. And aside from which," Gino's voice turned acidic," you guys can't even protect your home town. What the hell makes you think you could protect her?"
Kallen's voice turned desperate. "Gino, listen-"
"You saw what happened, what they did to Gottwald. " Of course she had. It had taken six squads but they'd finally gotten him. "I'm not letting that happen to Anya!"
The Tristan blasted forward at his final declaration, MSV swords held high. Kallen stood her ground, waiting until he had closed the distance, then fired up the Radiant Wave Surger, catching the two blades, then kicked the Guren's legs high, knocking the Tristan's arms up. She used the momentum to turn the kick into a backflip, then thrusting forward, slamming the red Frame's shoulder into the center piece of the Tristan.
Gino rolled with the blow, allowing Kallen to push him back through the air before using their momentum to break away, quickly transitioning the Tristan into its jet form and powering off into the melee. Kallen's recovery was quick , powering after him at full speed, weaving her way up, over, and sometimes through battling Sutherlands and Akatsukis, her targeting computer fixed on the Tristan's signature.
Just as she was about to catch up to it, the Tristan transformed back into its Knightmare form, twisting around and firing its slash harkens. Kallen dodged, then barked in shocked anger when the Guren suddenly shook. She checked her cameras, trying to get a sense of what had happened, when she saw it: the Avalon. Her eyes widened in comprehension.
Dammit! She cursed silently. He drew me into the Avalon's range!
She'd forgotten she had them to contend with. She looked back at the Tristan with new respect. He's gotten better, she thought sadly.
The Tristan sped towards her, shifting back into jet form, harkens returned and ready. Kallen matched his speed, coming in head on, Radiant Wave Surger powering up. When they seemed impossibly close, Gino fired off his harkens. She dodged between them, pivoting through and up, and bringing the claw down as the Tristan transformed again, MSV slashing up at her. Kallen had anticipated this, twisting the arm appropriately, and catching the sword in the Surger's claw. She cranked it up, melting quickly through the blade, gripping the arm of the Tristan as hers went through the broken blade, and amped the Surger up to maximum strength.
Gino detached the arm instantly and it exploded, showering them in scrap metal, then fired off his slash harken. Kallen moved but was far too close: the harken caught the Guren's right arm, tearing through the base and shearing it clean off. Kallen moved with the swipe, spinning the Guren a full 360 degrees, and kicking the Tristan hard in the side.
The Tristan reeled from the impact, flying through the air, attempting to transform into its jet form. Kallen didn't let up, firing her chest mounted slash harkens, piercing the Tristan's feet, then whirling around with the Frame in her grasp, building up speed, before releasing it, throwing it clear of the Avalon's range. She belted after it, pushing the Feather system to its limit, then kicked the Tristan again as she powered up the Radiant Wave Surger.
This is it, she thought. Just take care of his remaining float system and haul him off to the Ikaruga. Then, grab Anya and Nunnally, and blow the Avalon straight to Hell.
She kicked out again, intending to spin the Tristan around and give her free access to the Float system on the back, when Gino fired off his second slash harken, catching the Guren in its factsphere, causing it to reel back, the Surger transplanting itself onto the Tristan's head. Kallen grunted at the sudden impact, then checked her undamaged cameras. Her blood chilled.
The Tristan's other arm held its remaining MSV pointed squarely at her Sakuradite core, prepared to thrust in at the slightest provocation. The Tristan's legs straddled the Guren's waist, forcing it down, the silver claw still firmly attached to the Tristan's own face. Kallen recognized the situation at hand: neither could move, any action would be seen as an aggressive one. There was no way to escape. It was a stalemate.
Unless I fire it, Kallen realized in horror, referring to the Surger. It was faster than Gino's sword, and furthermore was fully powered up.
Gino's voice crackled over the comm. "Well, what are you waiting for, Kallen? Do it."
Tears burned Kallen's vision. "No! Gino, don't make me do this, don't make me-"
"If you don't," Gino interrupted," I will." The MSV moved slightly, prepared to stab deep and finish her off.
"Stop!" Kallen shouted as the blade edged closer. "Don't do it Gino don't-"
"I'm sorry." Gino plunged forward, the blade connecting with the chassis.
"Goddamnit!" Kallen screamed, tears streaming down her cheeks as she mashed down on the firing button. The Tristan ballooned underneath the silver claw as radiation was pumped violently into the machine.
"Take care of her Kallen," Gino said over the comm," Please get her out of there. Get her to safety." The Tristan exploded in a ball of fire, burning away its pilot with it.
Kallen sobbed, her body heaving with grief, finally freed from the pin. She brought her eyes up and watched the remains of the Tristan fall back to Earth. She screamed," I will, I'll keep her safe, and I'll make him pay. I promise."
She turned back to the Avalon. "Schneizel!" She roared, eyes on fire. "You'll pay for this!" She blasted off, trailing a blaze of pink light toward the enemy flagship.
"Your highness, the Tristan has been destroyed. Sir Weinberg did not eject."
"No matter," the Prince said, his smile decidedly nasty," He has accomplished his goal. Release Lady Alstreim after the battle is concluded. Are the final preparations complete?"
"Yes Your Highness."
"Good." He watched the Guren speed across the map, the Avalon its obvious target. "Project the Guren's flight path and target her next likely location. You may fire when ready."
Kallen blasted through the Britannian ranks, kicking and clawing her way through wave after wave of Sutherlands and flight-enabled Vincents, her approach inexorable. She had just entered the Avalon's cannon range when it happened. The Sutherland smashed right into her, knocking her off course, forcing her to take a wider path as the Britannian air forces attempted to close in around her.
I don't have time for this, she cursed, juking around another oncoming Sutherland, trying to configure a new approach plan. Suddenly the Guren was rocked violently, and Kallen felt as if she were being thrown around like a volleyball. She grit her teeth, trying to maintain some control over her machine and failing miserably. She felt herself beginning to spiral downward, the Feather system barely functioning, not doing enough to arrest her fall.
A building came into the view of her cracked cameras, and unable to control herself, the Guren careened into it, smacking off of the side, before smashing into another one, and then another, before crashing through a railway bridge, and crashing hard into the ground. Her head slapped into the Guren's side, and with a pained gasp, she grasped her skull, her eyes rolling up into her head as the darkness claimed him.
Kallen woke up slowly, pain lancing through her skull. She checked her computer readouts and groaned. Everything was in critical condition, the Feather Wing System broken beyond repair, the Radient Wave Surger broken and bent out of shape, and the legs were completely gone.
The Guren was totaled.
Rakshata's going to kill me, Kallen thought dazedly, turning her attention to the cracked digital map. What she saw made her whimper.
The dots marking Black Knight forces had gone down substantially, and those that hadn't been destroyed or disabled were in full retreat. It was all over. They had lost.
Kallen felt despair grip her heart, then watched in shock as a substantial amount of "LOST" signals popped up in quick succession. What's going on? she wondered.
She checked the one working camera, the sudden motion making her head spin. The Ikaruga was almost overhead, Akatsuki units flying down to pick her up.
Dammit Ohgi, she thought without any real venom, leave me here. I'm not of any use to anyone now. Get our people out of here. And then she saw it.
A bright pink light appeared just a few blocks away from them and began to rapidly eat away at the surrounding buildings, expanding rapidly towards the Ikaruga and Guren. Horror rose within her. She recognized that beautiful, horrible light anyhere.
F.L.E.I.J.A. This was it then. She was finished. They were finished.
Gino! She suddenly thought. Anya, Nunnally, I'm sorry, so, so, sorry, I've failed you.
As the pink light began to envelop the Ikaruga, one final thought went through her mind. Lelouch, I'm sorry my love, I'll be seeing you again soon.
And then she knew nothing but fire.
He screamed. He screamed as he had screamed for the last two years. Screamed as he watched it all far apart. Screamed as those he loved, those he gave everything for, burned away with the last remnants of the Requiem.
Screamed as he watched her die.
He had been stuck here for he didn't know how long, floating in white space, given the horrifying opportunity to watch as his greatest plan, his ultimate masterpiece, tore itself apart in mess of fire and blood, those he had entrusted to its protection and success unable to forestall the inevitable. He could see the mistakes made, the decisions that he would not have taken, the weakness shown when there needed to be strength, and it had been torturous to not be able to do anything, to watch but never tell, to scream without sound. It had been simple to see where it all began to fall apart.
The foundation of the plan itself had been flawed, dangerously naïve. He had not counted on the baser evil of man, nor the cruelty of simple rotten luck. The universe, it seemed, liked to take his best plans and point out all the flaws in the most terrifying ways possible, and this was no exception. That the whole world burned along with it did not seem to bother the Powers that Be one bit.
And so he raged, he hated, he lashed out at the forces that kept him here in limbo, unable to join those he had loved in the sleep of death, yet not consigned to the fires of his own personal Hell. He cursed them, degraded them, questioned their compassion, their cruelty, their very existence itself.
Finally he was spent, and lapsed into sullen silence, curled into a ball, the pain wrapping itself around him, a comfortable friend these days. And in that silence he began to think. To see the mistakes he had made, the unnecessary deaths his inexperience had caused, the atrocities he had committed for his own ego and need for vengeance.
Options he could have taken, paths he should have chosen, began to pop into his mind, but where would he start?
At Shirley, he thought, tears burning his eyes. I'd check the range of the landslide, I'd make sure her father didn't die, that Mao never sank his claws into her, that…he paused for a moment. I'd kill Rolo before he got anywhere near her.
His thoughts continued onward. I'd find a way to bring Suzaku to my side, to persuade him of the righteousness of my plans, and beg his help.
And Euphy. The tears spilled over. She'd never die. She'd never be hurt, never be touched by the horrors of war. She and Suzaku would have their happy ending.
And what of the rest of the world?
A kind and gentle world, he thought. One free of tyranny and oppression, one where all must practice justice. Nunnally's world of love and peace.
Do you think you could do it?
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes, he could, he would, or he'd be consigned nonexistence itself.
That's rather extreme, but very well. We accept this contract.
Wait, what? Lelouch realized for the first time that those questions were not his own thoughts.
What's going on here, he said fearfully. Where are you? Who are you?
We are those with the power to grant a wish, for a price.
A wish? Lelouch asked. What kind of wish?
What you desire most: a second chance. You will be returned to the world of the living and be allowed to begin your rebellion again.
Again? Lelouch felt himself become giddy with the heady feeling of excitement. Then he paused. You mentioned a price for this wish. What is it?
Nothing you need concern yourself with right now. Now, go. She's waiting for you.
A voice came screaming to him out of the darkness. "He mustn't die!"