I do not own Code Geass.

Royal Suite, Hotel Victoria, Archduchy of California, Holy Empire of Britannia, April 2018

Euphemia awoke to a throbbing headache. "Not again," she moaned. She turned over to see what time it was. The clock read: '3:06.'

"Stupid migraine woke me up early," she grumbled.

It was doubtful anyone was awake at this hour, so she'd have to grab some painkillers herself.

She sat up painfully, placing a cool hand against her aching head. The blankets and sheets fell, revealing her nakedness, and she groped around in her dark hotel suite for a light switch. She clicked on the bedside lamp, grimaced at the sudden brightness, and pulled herself out of the bed. She padded stiffly over to an armoire, white and shadowed in the low light of the lamp, and pulled on a nightdress. It was frilly and pink, and felt altogether cuter than she did at the moment, but it would do.

She opened her room door carefully, grateful that the hinges didn't squeak, and tiptoed silently down the tile floored hallway toward the common area. A medical satchel sat on the table in the middle of the room, and Euphemia meant to imbibe liberally of the acetaminophen before she turned back in for the night.

Have to be up in three hours, she complained silently. I can't believe the stress is getting to me this bad.

She reached the edge of the common area. The moon shown bright on the open wood floor. Euphemia cursed silently.

The floor was a special type of wood, imported from Japan some years before the war, that would make a loud squeaking sound when one stepped on it. The chirping sound it made sounded like birds, leading to it to be called a nightingale floor. Supposedly, feudal lords from Japan's Warring States Period would have the floor installed to prevent assassins from being able to sneak in unnoticed.

Euphemia grimaced. And I am no assassin.

Just as she was about to try to negotiate her way across the floor without making a noise, she heard a voice.

"I told you, the situation is taken care of," a soft, female voice said. It was too low for Euphemia to make out who, but she could understand the words echoing across the silence. "There's no need for drastic action." There was a pause. "Yes, yes, he left shortly after she arrived. He's ready for the job."

Silence, then: "I couldn't care less what Enneagram has to say about it. If she wanted to jump him so badly, she should have kept him on a shorter leash!"

Quiet words, too quiet for Euphemia to understand, then, "I already said it wasn't my damn fault! The Princess didn't share it with us before she went up on the stage!"


Euphemia recognized the voice now. She wrapped her arms around her as a slimy, disgusting weight settled inexplicably upon her shoulders.

"Of course she doesn't suspect anything, you moron!" Clara hissed. "You know how it works!"

How does what work?

Eupemia's heart thundered in her chest. I'm not supposed to be hearing this.

"If anyone needed to be offed, it was that Ashford slut and her film school reject...I'm aware of the debt that had to be paid. But this is getting complicated. The Princess is showing signs of resistance, what about those two idiots gallivanting across France?...She has a strong will, of course. Stronger than most. It's what I love the most about her."

Euphemia was shaking. Wh-What is she talking about? What's going-WHO ARE YOU? She leaned forward.

"She's mine when this is over," Clara continued. "I know she's been selected, but I'm not lifting it. Besides, that scumbag already has his sights set on-"

Euphemia lost her balance. On instinct, she threw a foot out.

The floor screamed beneath her.

Clara's voice cut off. Euphemia didn't think. She turned the stumble into a sneaking, grimacing step, trying to look for all the world like she was trying, and failing, to be silent.

"Oh, please, please floor," she whispered, certain that Clara would be able to hear her no matter what. "Please be quiet. Everyone's asleep." She took another screeching step.


Euphemia didn't have to fake her startled jump, nor the strangled yelp that she immediately silenced. "Cl-Clara!" she said. "What are you doing up this late?"

The girl was next to her, her smiling lips not quite reaching the shadows that covered her eyes. "Lady's business. Felt like a drink of water. What are you doing up, Highness?"

Euphemia rubbed her head ruefully. "Migraine. Again," she drawled, suddenly very aware of the pounding between her temples. "I didn't want to wake anyone, but, uh…"

Clara placed a hand on Euphemia's shoulder. "I understand entirely," she said, but Euphemia wasn't paying attention to her words. She paid attention to Clara's eyes, glowing an eery red in the shadows. They lingered, first on Euphemia's lips, then trailed down to where her breasts filled her nightgown, and lower still before darting back up.

She doesn't know I can see her, Euphemia thought. Or she doesn't care, another part of her said.

"Here," Clara said, slipping her arm through Euphemia's, "we'll get it together, and then back off to bed. We have a busy schedule, Euphie!"

Euphemia nodded her agreement. Clara guided her across the nightingale floor, Euphemia wincing at every shriek. She let go of Euphemia and grabbed the satchel, flipped it open, and found the painkillers and a bottle of water.

Euphemia took four and swallowed them in two takes. She let Clara take her by the arm again, and the two glided out of the room.

Down the hallway they walked, and through her door. Clara helped her back into bed, and flipped the light back off. "Sleep well, Princess," she said.

Euphemia nodded in the darkness, certain that Clara could see it. A moment later, her door clicked shut.

Euphemia darted her eyes around, making certain that Clara had actually left the room. Then she grabbed a pillow and gasped into it, her entire body shivering with terror.

In the whole time they walked together, Clara had not made a single sound on that nightingale floor.

Ballroom, Le Grand Boxeur Hotel, Paris, Unincorporated Area Twenty-Six

"We're calling it 'Operation Uriah,'" the Brothers Rui said as one. The white-clad, light blue-haired princes smiled gently at the gathered assembly.

Jeremiah sat beside Shaing along with the rest of the Knightly Orders, their attention trained on the Butchers of Paris.

Jeremiah ground his teeth. I don't care how the news media lies about it, he growled silently. You're a pair of murdering sons of bitches!

"The Airborne command under the control of Archduke Highland-" Castor, he of the purple eyes, began.

"-will be joined by the ground component, led by Sir Gino Weinberg," Pollux of the yellow eyes finished.

"A former Rounds?" Grand Master Andrea Farnese of the Holy Order of Raphael asked. His blue eyes peaked out from behind long silver hair that fell over his pretty face. "You do us a great honor."

Jeremiah suppressed a snort. It would be more accurate to say we're doing him a great honor.

It was an open secret among the brass that Weinberg had resigned in protest over the Sacking of Paris and ensuing cover-up. That he would apparently be leading the ground contingent rather than the air was a clear expression of the Emperor's displeasure.

"By your actions-" Castor said.

"-you honor yourself," Pollux finished.

"Between the Battle of France and the Rhine Campaign," began Grand Master Raymond du Saint-Gilles of the Holy Order of Uriel, whose wispy white goatee and liver-spotted skull belied his skill in a Knightmare and tactical acumen, "the Holy Order of Uriel has permanently lost six thousand men, and twice that count in equipment and Knightmare Frames. We are also facing severe degradation in our Sakuradite supply. We will need replenishment in manpower and materiel if we are to pull our weight in the coming campaign."

"Our aerial Knightmare platforms proved their mettle-"

"-in the Liberation of Paris. We need merely hold the skies-"

"-while forces under Sir Weinberg take the power plant. We-"

"-are not going beyond Essen. Our orders are to-"

"-hold the city against all counterattacks-"

"-and bleed the mechanized heart of Europe white."

I hate how these creeps talk.

Brothers Castor and Pollux rui Britannia would need an entire village of family members to die before they'd be in line for the Throne, but Jeremiah could see them doing it. The twins had the strange ability to know what the other was going to say at any given time, and they used that ability to great affect in unnerving whomever it was they were speaking to.

"Then we're going to need a constant stream of equipment," Jeremiah said aloud. "The Euros will understand the significance of our holding Essen just as much as we do. We need top priority for any supplies coming our way, and damn the other Fronts if necessary."

The supply lines all along the front were becoming a nightmare. Peace Mark and Resistance fighters were blowing up rail lines, dockyards, and depots all over the place. It was getting increasingly difficult to supply the front.

"And we also need to determine responsibility for the sectors we'll be leaving behind," Shaing added. "My men will not bleed for Essen if we must give it up, too."

"For the love of God, stop pussyfooting around!" demanded Grandmaster Gaudefroy du Villon of the Holy Order Gabriel. His fierce glare was accentuated by his wolverine-like hair and harsh, bushy eyebrows. "Gabriel and Michael lost thirteen thousand men between them during the One Day Offensive, and we've got nothing to show for it! We handed over thousands of square kilometers of ancestral land, mines, and factories right back over to the goddamn Frogs! I don't care if you're Saint Darwin come again, my men will not bleed for a city we're just going to hand back over to the Krauts!"

"Tactful as always, My Lord du Villon," Farnese said, his lip turned up in amusement.

"Yet completely right," Shaing said. "I have thousands of men, knight and commoner alike, watching French and Dutch bureaucrats walk right back in to their family homes. It is insulting, it is unfair, and it is not what we are fighting for."

"Here! Here!" Saint-Gilles applauded. "I am an old man, as you can see."

"You don't act it," Jeremiah threw in, to which the Grandmasters laughed.

"Youth is wasted on the young," the elderly Grandmaster retorted playfully, to more laughter. "Mind your manners, whippersnapper!" More laughter. "I am tired, Your Highnesses. So very tired. My time has long since passed." The air grew solemn. "When I die, it will be in my grandfather's chateau, off the cliffs Etretat, where I can watch the sea roll in one last time." He brushed a finger across his eye, wiping away a tear. "My men have earned the right to do the same."

Jeremiah's fist joined a dozen others as they thumped the table, over and over, a crescendo that spread over the room.

Smiles appeared on the brothers' faces.

"My lords and friends-" Castor said.

"-our Father, His Royal Majesty Charles zi Britannia-" Pollux continued.

"-shares not only your concerns-"

"-but your appreciation for the men under your command."

"What is now-"

"-soon shall pass."

"What was once-"

"-no more will be."

"The day-"

"-the hour-"

"-has come."

"A reckoning for the Revolution."

"Revenge for past wrongs."

"Justice for Britannia."

"Woe for the Republicans."

"Robespierre's ghost, vanquished."

"Napoleon's dream, fulfilled."

They grinned, a rictus terror that chilled Jeremiah to the core.

Together, they said: "With victory will come a Night of Long Knives. The last of the Republicans will be vanquished throughout Occupied Europe. Britannia's time has come at last."

"We, who never forgot," said Castor.

"We, who never forgave," said Pollux.

Castor raised his right arm. Pollux raised his left.

"The world is ours!" they said as one.

Jeremiah rose with the rest of the Holy Knights as they erupted in cheers. He shared a look with Shaing as he did. The man gave a slight nod.

Jeremiah's stomach plummeted.

They had just lost their coup.


EU Headquarters, The Underground, Berlin, Federal Republic of Germany

"So this is Old Charlie's last roll of the dice," Smilas said.

He, Leila, and several other high ranking officers pored over blown up copies of the plans Leila had brought back from France. Sheaves of paper with meticulous notes were scattered all around them, and notations were being made on the copies themselves with big red marks. Ersatz coffee in cheap styrofoam cups were constantly being refilled, while cigarettes littered the floor around them.

Smilas looked up at Field Marshall Hans Speidel, a silver haired German who wore thick glasses to enhance his failing eyesight. "Can we hold them?"

Speidel tentatively nodded. "We could," he said. "It will be a bloodbath, but if we pulled troops from the Slovakian Front, or even the Austrian Front, we might be able to hold them off."

Leila frowned. "But that would weaken those fronts, perhaps fatally so," she said. "We could stop them punching through at Essen, only to give the Imps a free road to Berlin."

Smilas chewed on a rolled-up cigarette. He turned to one of his aides, a young woman with close-cropped brown hair and bony cheeks. "Captain, get those goddamn Poles, or Ukrainians, or whoever you have to on the radio, and tell them to send reinforcements now!"

The captain saluted. "At once, sir!"

"They won't make it in time," Field Marshall Hasso von Manteuffel said. He was bald and walked with a cane, a wound he carried from the Eastern Front of the German Rebellions. "Not if those bastards are coming as soon as they are. Besides which, they have to man the border with the Russians. There's no telling how long we have before the Bear thunders across the Suwalki Gap."

Leila chewed her lip. The announcement of Russia's departure from the EU and signing of the Greater Asia Pact had come while she and the W-0 unit were still in France. The news still shocked her.

There's only one thing that could have enticed the Russians to ally with Zero rather than Britannia, she thought. He's given them Eastern Europe.

If what was left of the Eurozone were suddenly smashed from the East, the last remnants of the West would be torn to pieces by the Britannian and Asian powers in a mad sramble for the world island. The EU would be a bystander to its own destruction.

Leila pored over the map. There must be something we can do!

As the leadership mused with her, a thought struck her. It's insane, but it might just work…

"What if we let them have Essen?" she recommended.

The High Command stared at her as if she were stupid. "Not for long," she hurriedly said, refusing to wilt under their stupefied glares. "Look."

She grabbed one of their own maps that delineated the positions of their forces along the River Rhine.

"We reinforce the line here," she pointed to the Rhine city of Wesel, just north of Essen, "and here," this time at Bergisch, just to the south. "They'll have to rebuild the bridge across the Rhine to bring up their ground component, which will give us a day to bring in extra reinforcements."

Manteuffel was nodding. "Then we blow the bridge, and trap them in a pincer with our reinforcements from north and south."

Speidel shook his head vigorously. "No, no! We cannot do that! Look!" He pointed to the center of Essen. "The North Rhine-Westphalia Power Plant is in Essen! Not to mention a half dozen Knightmare factories that are still standing! We give them Essen, we give them the ability to fuel their Knightmares locally within the Fatherland itself!"

"Not if we blow the power plant," Smilas rumbled quietly.

Leila and the others turned to him, their jaws dropping. "What?" Leila asked.

"We blow the power plant, depriving them of the ability to resupply their energy fillers," Smilas continued, his voice growing more confident. "We send up every air asset we have left in our arsenal. Even if we could only contest air space rather than enforce air superiority, it would work to our advantage. Take out the factories, too, so they can't scavenge for repair parts. And then," he clenched his fist before him, "squeeze."

The gathered officers nodded. "We could destroy the Imperial Army in one fell swoop," Manteuffal said.

To Leila's surprise, Smilas shook his head. "No, not destroy," he said. "Take hostage."

Leila leaned back. "What?"

Smilas turned to the map on the wall behind them. He pointed to it. "One of you tell me how we win this war," he ordered. "Go ahead. Explain to me in detail how we get the Sakuradite we need to power our Knightmares. Explain to me how we command air superiority when we're almost out of trained pilots." He clenched one his wrists behind his back. "Explain to me how Europe remains Europe."

Leila opened her mouth, but found she had no answer.

Smilas returned to the table and leaned over. "Russia wants to align itself with the Elevens?" He waved his hand over the table. "That's fine. Let the war go to their people, to their land, to their blood. Let the East drown in blood, if that's what it takes to save the West." He nodded. "If what Peace Mark is saying is true, then Britannia doesn't have much stomach left for the fight. We take an entire army hostage, with troops and equipment they need to carry on the struggle with Zero, they have to come to the table." He stood up, his hands behind his back. "And we'll have all the cards."

Lord's Suite, Louis Capet Hotel, Versailles, Paris, Unincorporated Area Twenty-Six

Her Highness was not happy with what Jeremiah had to tell her.

"So you're giving up," Princess Nunnally said flatly.

"Not at all, Joanna," Jeremiah said, raising his hands to reassure her. "All it means is we have to change tactics."

"What tactics, Uncle?" Her Highness asked forcefully. "The tactics that involved trusting a disparate band of thieves and murderers to rise for my brother?"

"Joanna," Jeremiah said, panicking, "the walls have ears-"

"The only ears those walls have are our own, My Lord," the Princess countered venomously. "Sayoko has been working overtime while the Britannian Army was killing itself on the Rhine. The only thing that Shin Hyuga Shaing can hear right now is some stupid girl named Joanna talking to her maid about having tea and crumpets with Sir Ashley Ashra."

Jeremiah bowed his head. "I see. Thank you, Miss Sayoko."

"I only did as My Lady commands," the maid replied.

"Now how are we going to fix this, Lord Jeremiah?" Nunnally asked. "How are we going to ensure a popular uprising that will support my brother's bid for the Throne?"

Jeremiah cleared his throat. "Are you absolutely certain we can't be heard, Miss Sayoko?" he asked.


"Good. We're going to kill the other Grandmasters."

The Princess blinked. Then she blinked again. "Come again?" she asked.

"Exactly that," Jeremiah said. "Shaing and I were never certain of the trust we could put in the other Grandmasters, or even of Grand Duke Highland himself. Our backup plan was a clean sweep: kill the other heads of the Holy Orders, and Grand Duke Highland if need be, and secure our control over their troops."

"And you believe you can just get away with this?" Sayoko asked disbelievingly. "There is no way to do this without casting suspicion upon yourselves."

"Unless he uses the coming campaign to do it," Her Highness interjected. "The coming operation would be the perfect time to carry out a series of murders. They would just be written off as battlefield casualties."

"Precisely," Jeremiah confirmed. "And if we work it right, we may gain a former Rounds among our cadre."

"Yes, the Rounds Knight Gino Weinberg," Her Highness mused, tapping a finger to her lips. "He was the one who resigned over the Sack. Do you think him amenable?"

"More than most," Jeremiah hedged. "His lover is Dame Nonette Enneagram, the Knight of Nine. She's been working behind the scenes to reconcile him to the Emperor, but thus far he hasn't budged. The Emperor likely expects him to die during this operation. We believe that's why he was given command over the ground component of the operation. Offering him the position of Rounds with His Highness' Court would likely entice him to our side."

"And if he refuses your offer?"

Jeremiah shrugged. "Then he dies."

Her Highness nodded slowly. "See that it's done, Lord Jeremiah. And-" Her phone beeped. She glared at it for just a moment, then said, "That would be Sir Pig. See him into the apartment, would you?"

Jeremiah snapped off a bow. "At once, Your Highness."

Jeremiah reached the door in a few easy strides. He took a quick breath, then opened the door to admit Sir Ashra. The young man was carrying a bouquet of flowers.

Jeremiah almost felt sorry for him. "I have some errands to run, so I expect you to behave, Joanna," he called out.

"Of course, Uncle! I would never betray a trust!" the Princess called back.

Jeremiah shook his head as he exited-

-right into the back of a cleaning boy.

"Watch where you're going!" he snarled.

"S-Sorry, My Lord!" the boy, a light-haired brunette around the Princess' age with soft violet eyes, cried out. "W-Won't happen again!"

"See that it doesn't."

Jeremiah stormed down the hall, mental gears turning.

I have to get that Rounds Knight on side. There's too much at stake!


Riverside Apartments, Nancy, Unincorporated Area Twenty-Six

Nonette Enneagram rang the doorbell a third time, her foot tapping the plush blue doormat impatiently. She blew a lock of hair out of her face, arms crossed over her chest, eyebrows twitching from irritation.

When no response again came, she huffed and banged on the door. "Gino!" She banged again. "I know you're in there! Open the damn door! Gino!" she yelled.

Nonette wasn't wearing her Rounds uniform. Instead she wore a sheer purple blouse and a pair of white slacks, with golden bracelets and rings adorning her wrists and fingers, and a pair of black high heels that might actually bring her up to Gino's chin. A pair of sunglasses sat on the top of her head, and she wore a designer purse on her arm.

Gino's apartment was on the third floor of a posh French high rise overlooking the Meurthe River. The walls of the hallway were yellow with broad red stripes, and paintings depicting the glory of the Ancien Regime adorned the walls. Nonette was convinced they'd been hung shortly after the city was taken.

Nonette slammed her fist on the door again. "Goddammit, Gino! Open the goddman-"

The door jerked open, and her still falling fist was caught at the wrist.

"Jesus Christ, Nonette, wouldja quit shouting?" Sir Gino Weinberg, the former Knight of Six, demanded.

The barefoot ex-Rounds was clad only in a pair of blue slacks, and Nonette found the first sight that greeted her was his bare chest. He was firm and muscled in all the ways a man should be, with a taut six pack and thick shoulders from hours spent in the gym. Only one of his cheerful blue eyes was open, the other scrunched shut, and the blonde braid that normally fell down his chest was loose and free to flow like water across his cheek.

So much for heels, Nonette thought as she craned her neck up to look at him.

"My head is killin' me," Gino said. "I'd like to sleep off whatever the Hell I drank in peace."

"Please, you're not old enough for alcohol," Nonette retorted, brushing past him into the apartment.

"Just come on in," Gino invited mockingly.

Gino's apartment had only a single bedroom off to the side, and a three-piece sofa wrapped around the living space in front of a massive flat screen TV. His kitchen was spacious and polished to a gleam, though the dining table still had the remains of his breakfast sitting on it.

"I thought I was going to be walking into a bachelor's pad," Nonette admitted aloud. "I'm impressed, Gino. You're a credit to your sex."

Gino snorted. "I may not be Rounds anymore, but I'm still Military, Nonette," he said. "If my superior came in and saw a mess, I'd be cleaning my toilet with my own toothbrush, again." He shivered for affect, which Nonette found herself smiling at.

"More furniture than I was expecting," Nonette commented. "When I visited Guilford's old apartment before his swearing in, he just had a mattress and a folding chair."

'Guilford' referred to Sir Gilbert G. P. Guilford, a Knight once in service to Princess Cornelia. He and Cornelia's other aide and confidant, Andreas Darlton, preceded their mistress in death during the early stages of the Black Rebellion.

"So did I," Gino confirmed. "But Anya visited a few days ago. After seeing what I had done with the place, she practically kidnapped me to a furniture store."

Nonette suppressed the flash of jealousy that went through her. "Anya's been here?"

"Yep, stopped by on her way back to the Mainland." Gino stared at her meaningfully. "Probably for the same reason you did."

Nonette reached into her purse. "You don't miss a beat, do you?" she said. She retrieved a folded white document and a pen and handed them to him.

"What's this?"

"An official apology, in writing, to their Royal Highness' the Brothers rui Britannia," Nonette answered. "No one outside the chain will know. Officially, His Highness Prince Schneizel is willing to chalk your resignation up to sudden illness caused by an adverse reaction to one of our vaccines. That'll smooth the process considerably towards getting you back in the-"

"I'm not going back, Nonette," Gino interrupted quietly.

Nonette rolled her eyes. "Of course you're going back, Gino," she retorted. She pulled a bottle of expensive water out of her purse and snapped it open. "Not this year, obviously, the Emperor is too furious for that. But next year, when we start smashing the Chinese properly after we've retaken Area Eleven, His Highness has assured me that the Emperor will extend an invitation."

"If he does, I won't take it."

"You'll take it, Gino. No one refuses the Emperor."

"I do."

Nonette took a sip of water. "No, you don't. You had an understandable, I would say even proper, paroxysm over the inadvertent consequences of Their Highness' actions," she said, snapping the bottle shut again. "The Emperor will understand. I will make him understand."


"WE'RE ALL MURDERERS!" she screamed back. "You think the blood's any different if it's a soldier or civilian? Cut a man in uniform, or coward civie, and it's just as red!"

"You know goddamn well it's not the same!" Gino barked back. "You were just as horrified as I was! So was Anya! But I'm the only one who had the balls to say something!"

"You mean the only one stupid enough!"

"Sometimes it's the same thing!"

Nonette flung the bottle across the room. It burst on his bedroom doorway and splashed across the floor.

"Do you want to die, Gino? Is that it? Is your conscience so pricked by something you didn't even do?"

"You're right, Nonette," Gino said, surprising her. "I didn't do it. I didn't do anything. And I'll be haunted for the rest of my life because I did nothing."

"Well, you're life isn't going to last much longer," Nonette said sourly.

Gino crossed his arms. "You mean my new assignment, right?"

"Your death sentence," Nonette corrected him. "A goddamn Gloucester that isn't even Flight Enabled? When you're the best goddamn pilot in the Empire?"

Gino laughed. Nonette's heart sang at the sound. "Hardly the best anymore. Have you seen Seven? That guy flies rings around me on his worst day."

Nonette smiled wanly. She grabbed her forearm. "Yeah, he's good. I haven't seen talent like that since the Flash walked the Earth." Her smile fell. "But that doesn't change the fact you should be in the air, at least as a fighter pilot."

"I'll manage."

"You'll be killed!"

Gino shook his head. "Not a chance. I've got something to come back to."

Nonette wouldn't look at him. "What?"

Gino stepped over to her. He tilted her chin up so that she had to look him in the eye. "You."

A blush burned across Nonette's cheeks. "There are millions of boys in unmarked graves who had loved ones to come home to."

"And not one of them named Gino Weinberg."

He leaned down and stole her breath away. When she came back to herself, her arms were twined around his neck, one of his hands was tangled in her hair, and the other was inside her blouse, cupping her beating heart.

"Can't believe you went out in that without a bra," he mumbled.

She laid her cheek against his chest. "Thought you might get distracted and just sign the stupid apology," she said.

He leaned down into her ear. "Liar," he breathed, pushing her blouse open.

"How much does your head hurt?" she asked as she worked on the button of his pants.

"I'm feeling better already," he answered.

They left a trail of clothes all the way to his bed.

li Britannia Private Jet, One Hour Out From Archduchy of New York, Holy Empire of Britannia

Euphemia sipped from a cup of tea, her eyes unfocused. She hadn't been able to get back to sleep, but the manic energy brought on by the stark terror of the conversation she'd heard had lent an urgency to her speeches that seemed to resonate with the masses. Increasingly, it was the common folk who made up the majority of her audiences, starting with the working poor and working its way up. More people were showing up to her speeches than ever before, though she felt that was more due to the bloody stalemate in Europe than her own meager efforts.

The next stage of her nationwide tour was taking her to New York's Five Burroughs. From there, she intended to ride the rails throughout the northeast, before eventually moving south into the industrial heartland of Britannia. She would be landing in La Guardia in less than an hour.

"If anyone needed to be offed, it was that Ashford slut and her film school reject."

Who had Clara been talking about? Reuben's granddaughter, Milly? If so, why?

"She's mine when this is over. I know she's been selected, but I'm not lifting it."

Hers? Clara desired her? Selected for what? And what needed to be lifted?

On a floor made for detecting assassins, Clara never made a single sound.

"Your Highness?"

Euphemia jumped. Reuben was standing in front her. He looked concerned.

"Your Highness, are you alright? I've been trying to get your attention," he said.

Euphemia put a hand to her forehead. "Yes. Yes, just tired. I didn't get much sleep last night." She took a sip of tea, grimaced. It's cold. "What was it you needed?"

"We're going to need to tighten our security before we land," Reuben said. "There are protesters awaiting your arrival."

Euphemia was confused. "Protesters?"

"Yes. Those against our efforts at making peace." He smiled reassuringly. "It was bound to happen at some point. In fact, it's happening earlier than I hoped it might."

Euphemia raised an eyebrow. "You 'hoped'?"

Reuben nodded. "Yes. There's an old saying: 'How do you know when you're over the target? You start receiving flak.' We wouldn't be having protesters if you weren't having an impact."

Euphemia blushed at the phrase. "It's not just me. It's all of you as well. And you especially, Reuben. This whole operation wouldn't exist without you."

"Thank you, Princess," Reuben said with a bow.

Euphemia set down her cup of tea. She turned to Patty, the maid on duty. "Patty, could you give myself and Reuben some privacy?"

Patty bowed. "Yes, Your Highness."

She departed at once.

"Reuben," Euphemia said, gathering her courage, "I wonder if I might trouble you for a favor?"

"Of course."

"You performed background checks on Clara and Alicia, yes?"

"Of course, Your Highness. I was most thorough."

"Could you perform another one on Clara for me?"

Reuben's brow furrowed with puzzlement. "Your Highness? I'm afraid I don't understand. Has Miss Lanfranc done something wrong?"

Euphemia was certain Clara had, but she couldn't say that. Reuben might treat the girl differently, and that could arouse suspicion. "No, it's nothing like that."

"Then I'm afraid I don't understand, Your Highness. Miss Lanfranc has been quite the dedicated lieutenant."


"She's mine when this is over."

"I believe Clara might have some kind of...feelings for me," Euphemia decided, a slight tinge of pink coming across her cheeks.

Reuben's eyes widened. "She does? I see. I will speak to her, Your Highness, and stress in no uncertain terms that you feel uncomf-"

"No, Reuben!" Euphemia interjected, now blushing quite deeply. She grabbed the top hem of her black dress. "No, that's not what I want!"


"Um, that is…" Despite her apprehension, Euphemia felt quite embarrassed. "I'm...rather fond of her."

"Oh. Oh." Reuben rubbed his chin, looking quite flustered himself. "I see."

"You are probably aware of my last relationship?" Euphemia asked.

"Yes, there was a bit of a scandal brewing concerning your romance with Sir Kururugi."

Euphemia felt a simultaneous flash of anger and heartache. She had loved Suzaku Kururugi, once. She still did, in fact. But during the Battle of Tokyo, the climactic showdown of the Black Rebellion, Suzaku had been forced to fire on Japanese civilians. The result would have been a war crime tribunal, and likely his summary execution. Euphemia had been forced to break off her relationship with him as a ploy to convince the courts not to charge him.

The moment of his Knighting as the Seventh Rounds was still one of the happiest moments of her life.

"I cannot have another such scandal happen at this critical juncture," Euphemia said. "I wish for you to perform an even deeper background check than you did before. Leave no stone unturned. I should not like to discover that someone I am...very fond of," she flushed a deep red, "had some skeletons in her closet that could derail our noble endeavor."

"I understand, Your Highness," Reuben said with a bow. "I shall be most discreet."

"Thank you, Reuben. That will be all."

Reuben bowed again and left.

Euphemia rang a bell sitting next to her, and Patty came around the corner.

"Fresh scones if you please, Patty," she said. "And summon Clara for me, if you would. I desire her company for the rest of the flight."

Aboard the Russian President's Plane, Above Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation

"It's beautiful," Kallen said as she looked out the window.

C-Two glanced idly out the window. Saint Petersburg was one of the largest cities in Russia, and entirely classical in its design. Unlike Berlin, or Volgograd, or even London, the city had been spared from a great deal of the fighting of Heidler's Anti-Bolshevik Crusade, and what little damage had been done to the city was superficial at best. What few block buildings there were leftover from the Worker's Council Era were surrounded by tall pillars, Gothic buttresses, and whimsical palaces that made the city look like something out of a Christmas special.

"It's not bad," C-Two said.

"'Not bad?'" Kallen asked, incredulous. "The city looks like something out of a storybook!"

The witch shrugged. "I prefer Istanbul. Sue me."

Kallen rolled her eyes. "Whatever."

C-Two toyed with her Cheese-kun plushy, bored out of her mind.

The conference had been called for St. Petersburg owing to its closer proximity to Northern Europe, where the overlapping ranges of the combined Finnish and Scandinavian Air Forces would be able to afford the attendees some level of security.

They had four stopovers on the way, escorted by a combined task force of Black Knights led Urabe and Russian fighter jets. Lelouch was with Kruschev, discussing the finer details of the negotiations over glasses of vodka that Lelouch was studiously not drinking. C-Two had involved herself in the early conversations, but she had enough confidence in Lelouch that he would be able to handle the rest on his own.

That, and she was growing sick of watching the teen fuss over Kallen like a mother hen. He was constantly underfoot, trying to "help" an increasingly irate looking woman who was almost ready to throw him out the airplane door.

He really didn't think this through, she thought.

Whatever confident assurances he had given before, he seemed at a near loss as to how to deal with the fact of his impending fatherhood. It had been amusing, at first, to see the normally self-assured young man entirely out of his depth, but it had grown stale fast.

Kallen shuddered.

"Nausea?" C-Two asked.

"Yeah," the redhead answered. "But it's passing. The medicine's working. I'm not going to hurl all over the Polish ambassador or something."

"You know," C-Two said, pulling on her plushy's arms, "you probably wouldn't have this problem if the two of you hadn't been running a train on each other for over a month."

"Not a chance," Kallen retorted, still staring out the window. "Considering what the doc told me, this little guy came on board after our first time." She rubbed her belly fondly.

"That's been something I've been meaning to ask, actually," C-Two remarked. "Lelouch never wore any kind of protection because he's an idiot, but I would have thought you would have taken some kind of preventative measures."

"The first night we were together was spur of the moment," Kallen retorted.

"But every night after that?" C-Two asked. "You're not exactly bright, Kallen-"


"-but you're also not a fool," C-Two ignored her. "That's what's been niggling at me. You would have checked after that first night, wouldn't you? Just to be on the safe side?"

Kallen didn't answer.

"Kallen, how long have you actually known?"

Kallen sighed. "The first test came back a false negative," she answered. "So, no, I didn't know then, if that's what you're implying."

"So you didn't use protection, even though you knew to check." C-Two sat up, not quite believing what she was hearing.

"And Lelouch wasn't wearing rubbers, even after our first night," Kallen retorted, turning to her.

C-Two was surprised. "You knew, didn't you?"

"I guessed. Lelouch isn't an idiot. Even if we both made a mistake that first night, either one of us should have brought up the issue the next time." Kallen blushed. "Neither one of us did."

"Then why?" C-Two asked, mystified.

Kallen grasped her arm. "Because he doesn't think he's going to survive," she said. "Right? Jesus Christ, he certainly doesn't believe that he should. His sense of self-worth is abysmal. But he is Hell bent on me surviving." She gave C-Two a fierce look. "We're going to win this war. I can feel it. There's no doubt in my mind. After everything we've been through, after everything we've accomplished, we're going to pull it off." She stared down at her womb. "I want him to have someone to come home to, someone that will make him fight twice as hard. Not to win, but to live."

These two are more alike than I thought. "Still, becoming pregnant seems a tad extreme," C-Two pointed out. "You're a warrior, Kallen. And his bodyguard. Why not protect him as you always have?"

Kallen looked away from her. "I killed one of my best friends," she said, voice thick with emotion. "Nina was counting on me to save her...and I killed her. It doesn't matter if it was an accident or not." She took a deep, shuddering breath. "I could have found another way. I should have found another way. I didn't." She clenched her fists. "I'm going to murder a lot more people before this war is done. I know that." She relaxed her fists, and laid a hand on her womb. "So why not bring a little bit more life into the world?"

C-Two stood. "And if Lelouch doesn't survive?" she asked, because even with that Fragment of Code, there was no way of knowing.

Kallen turned back to her. Her eyes were wet, but she rubbed them dry. "Then at least a part of him will see the world we're going to make." She sighed. "I better go back in there. I only said I'd step out for a minute."

"I'll join you," C-Two said.


"We'll partition Britannia into five distinct sections," Lelouch said, tracing his fingers over the map of Britannia. "They'll be divided along cultural and geographic lines, with each Republic beholden to a different member of the Pact. We can force on them war indemnities, criminal tribunals, and arms controls. Give them a few decades, and future generations will consider themselves as part of their new country."

"Makes sense," Kruschev agreed. "Russia, China, and Japan are three, so we will need the other two. I say make it first come, first serve. That'll entice the bastards plenty enough."

"A scramble for Britannia. Sounds fair, but we're also going to have to figure on contribution. Someone who liberates a whole city isn't going to be happy if all they get is a pat on the back."

"It would depend on who's getting what in Europe, wouldn't it?" C-Two asked. "The Romanians have done a lot of dying and fighting, and so have the Slovakians and Austrians."

"True," Lelouch allowed. "I'm sure that can be worked out in the peace conference." He pointed at Spain. "I can tell you for a fact that France is getting the Pyrenees. And Italy will likely lose its Alpine border. Austria and France both deserve better defensive borders, and both those countries swapped sides."

"Damn traitors," Kallen said. "They should be thankful to keep anything at all."

Kruschev pointed to Kallen. "I like this girl's spirit!" he declared. More seriously, he said, "The Balkans will need to be disarmed. The EU is falling to pieces because they switched sides. I want Russian peacekeepers in those countries for the next fifty years!"

"A fair proposition," Lelouch said, "but unstable. Ten years of direct occupation should be sufficient to enact the changes we'll need in their governments, and we can strip them down to a token military arranged to just police their borders."

Kruschev eyed him stubbornly. "Zero," he said, "I am about to throw my people into this maelstrom. They have not been blooded as yet, and isolation has served us well." He smacked his hand on the table. "I need something to give them to justify crossing the Dnieper."

Lelouch tapped his finger on the table. He sighed. "Alright, we can hammer that out too," he said. "Twenty years."




"Thirty, and we'll throw in sole beneficiary of war reparations."

Kruscheve opened his mouth, thought about it for a moment, then nodded. "That works," he said.

Lelouch rolled his eyes. The countries that hadn't turned wouldn't like it one bit, but Kallen was right.

They should be thankful to keep their countries.

Underground Hospital, The Underground, Berlin, Federal Republic of Germany

"Alright, Major, that's right," the physical therapist, a middle-aged woman with short brown hair and wearing light blue scrubs, said. "Easy now. Don't overdue it like you did yesterday."

She was in front of Akito, guiding him between a pair of steel rails as he took each shaky step. He was covered in sweat and his jaw was locked tight.

"What's this about yesterday I'm hearing?" Leila asked, shooting Akito a cross glare.

"It's nothing," her paramour and subordinate said, voice strained.

Akito was roughly the same age as Leila, and a thick braid of blue hair trailed from the back of his otherwise stylishly ruffled short hair. The left of his lovely blue eyes was gone, replaced with a black patch to cover the empty socket, and his once muscular, wiry frame was withered from the downtime he spent in the hospital. His right leg ended at the knee, replaced by steel prosthetic that he was working himself over time to master.

Akito had been injured in the final minutes of the Battle of the Rhine, near lethally so, by the man who would later become the Knight of Seven. Leila had urged the W-0 unit, once much larger than it was now, to kill the pilot and destroy his Knightmare while they had the chance. They had failed, and Akito's injuries were the result.

Leila would make the same decision in a heartbeat.

"Akito, it's obviously not nothing," Leila said, crossing her arms. "What happened?"

The only change in his expression was a slight grimace that would have been unnoticeable to anyone other than her. "Overextended when taking a step, went down," he ground out. "I'm still adjusting to my new depth perception. Won't happen again."

"It had better not," Leila said. "I need you back in the field. Things are getting crazy out here, and we're going to need the best Knightmare pilot in the EU if we're going to have a shot at this."

"Ah, lay off him, Leila," Ayano said. The teen was in her civies, a green shirt blue-jean combo, and a lollipop was hanging from between her lips like a cigarette. "He said he'd watch it."

"No, she's right," Akito said. He rested on the railing. "I am overdoing it."

"Goddamn," Ryo said, giving Akito the stinkeye, "you're just a dog ain't ya, Hyuga? This sounds more like an owner trying to get their mutt to heel."

"If anyone can get him to heel, it's definitely Leila," Yukiya noted.

"Huh. Yeah, I don't think I wanna know what's goin' on behind closed doors, here."

Ayano wrinkled her nose. "Ew. Ryo, shut up."

"Yes, Ryo," Leila added, her glare's intensity lessened by the blush spreading across her cheeks. "Shut up. Kindly."

"Must have struck too close to the mark, Ryo."

"What can I say, Yuki my boy? I know how to spot 'em."

"You'll be spotting the next three latrine shifts on the duty roster."

Ryo raised his hands in surrender. "Whoa, whoa, settle down Major!"

"Too late. It's yours now." Leila smiled sweetly. "I expect to be able to eat off them by the time you're done."

"I am learning so much about you right now, Leila," Ayano commented.

"And you can join him!"


"And Yuki, if you want to spend your Saturdays cleaning a public restroom system, by all means, carry on."

"Think I'll pass, thanks."

"Wait, how's that shit fair!" Ryo demanded.

"It's not," Akito piped up, looking much better after his short rest. "It's dark, smells bad, and will take years off your life." He bowed his head slightly. "I will honor your sacrifice."

Leila covered her hands as she spit up giggles, while Ayano and Yukiya openly laughed.

Ryo remained silent and sullen for just a moment before he muttered, "I'm losing my edge if Hyuga just roasted me."

Riverside Apartments, Nancy, Unincorporated Area Twenty-Six

"Sure you gotta leave?" Gino asked.

He still lay naked in his bed, the bed sheets just barely covering his manhood.

Nonette was already standing and dressed. She finished cinching her belt and said, "Unfortunately, duty calls. I have to report to my duty station tomorrow morning, and it is one Hell of a flight."

"Ah. Those airships, then."

"Yep," Nonette confirmed. She glanced over at him. "Gino, are you absolutely sure?"

He nodded. "I am."

She bowed her head. "Then I'll be waiting," she promised. "So you had better come back."

"Count on it."

I counted on that with all my friends, Gino. None of them came back.

She stepped out of the bedroom, crossed the floor, and swung open the door.

She caught Margrave Jeremiah Gottwald in mid-swing to knock on the door.

"Oh! Lady Enneagram!" the man said, surprised. He bowed. "I didn't expect to find you here."

"Same to you," Nonette replied. "You here to see Gino about his new command?"

"I am, My Lady," Gottwald confirmed.

"Right." Nonette turned back into the apartment. "Hey, Gino! You've got a guest! Make yourself presentable!"

"Aye aye, Captain!" Gino called back.

"If you wait a few minutes, he'll be right with you," Nonette told Gottwald.

"My thanks, My Lady."

Nonette shut the door behind her. "Look after him, will you?" she asked. "Gino's a brilliant fighter, but he's also stubborn and silly."

"I'll do my best, My Lady," Gottwald promised.

Nonette nodded. She gave one final look at the door to Gino's apartment, then departed at a hurried clip.

It took about twenty minutes, but Sir Weinberg had tea and cakes set on the living room table when Jeremiah entered. The young knight had freshly showered, and Jeremiah had a pretty good idea as to why. Garbed in his uniform dress short and slacks, he could have looked like he was getting ready to head in for his shift.

"Lord Jeremiah," the teen said, "it's an unexpected pleasure to be your host. I'm sorry for not being ready to receive you."

Jeremiah raised a hand. "It's fine," he said sympathetically. "I hardly announced myself. You couldn't have known."

"I thank you. Please, take a seat."

"Certainly, thank you." Once they were both seated, and cups of tea had been poured, Jeremiah said, "I came to see you in order to go over some of the finer details of the upcoming operation. I trust you've been briefed?"

"Yes, My Lord," Weinberg confirmed. "I'm to command our ground component for our assault across the Rhine. While your air component takes command of the city itself, our engineering corps will perform rapid construction and deployment of bridges toward Duisberg and Meiderich. Once the bridges are complete, we'll cross the Rhine and reinforce you." He snorted. "The Euro's stuff isn't as good as our own hardware, but it'll work in a pinch."

When the cyberattack was launched in conjunction with the aerial and naval assault on France, it locked down just about every EU Knightmare on their Net. Most of the equipment was taken intact as EU forces fell back to the Rhine. Between the horrific attrition on the front, and the ongoing Sakuradite shortage, it had been fortunate that they were able to bring that Knightmare fleet back online with their mostly intact Sakuradite cores. Those Knightmares would be making up a third of the contingent that Sir Weinberg would be leading across the bridge.

"Correct. Remember, we'll want to take both the power plant and as many Knightmare factories as we can intact. The expectation is that we'll need to be able to hold the city for as long as need be, so it's vital that we're able to utilize the local infrastructure."

Weinberg frowned slightly. "I'm aware, My Lord, I'm no fool. Frankly," he cast his gaze away angrily, "I'm not the one you have to worry about."

"If you're referring to the Lunatic Twins, then I heartily agree with you," Jeremiah said.

Weinberg snapped back to him. "I'm shocked," he admitted. "I didn't think there was anyone else."

Jeremiah sipped his tea. "Few tears would be shed for them if some random Panzer-Hummel took them out," he said carefully.

Weinberg leaned back in his seat, crossed one leg over the other, and relaxed his arm on the back of the sofa. "Now that's interesting to hear," he said. "I've been out here all on my own. Do I then have friends in high places?"

"I should think so. Very influential friends, as a matter of fact. Friends who think a little house cleaning is in order."

"Huh." Sir Weinberg took a sip of his tea. "Well, I'm all ears. I've been meaning to do some Spring Cleaning anyway."


Above La Guardia Airport Private Strip, Archduchy of New York, Holy Empire of Britannia

"Your Highness," Alfred said. "We're ready to land."

"It's about damn time!" Clara snapped. She sat next to Euphemia, on her fifth cup of tea and third scone. "How long have we been circling, six hours?"

"Three hours, ten minutes, and forty-six seconds," Alicia said across from her, her nose buried in a book.

Euphemia almost laughed. Alicia had been cursing just a couple of hours ago as they were forced to miss event after event while the plane circled overhead and waited for an empty spot.

Under ordinary circumstances, any other private jet traffic would have been ordered to delay their approach except in case of emergency, owing to Euphemia's Royal Status. Unusually, they had been ordered to wait for permission while everyone else landed, and Euphemia was certain they were only being allowed to land now because they were starting to run low on power.

"Sir Alfred," Alicia said, not turning from her book, "once again, remind me to get the name of the supervisor on shift for Air Traffic Control."

"Yes, My Lady," Alfred said with relish.

"Now, Alicia," Euphemia raised a hand, smiling nervously, "let's be civil. He or she probably has someone important breathing down their neck."

"Not as important as a Princess!" Clara retorted, taking Euphemia's hand in her own.

Euphemia could feel her skin crawl, but she forced herself to give Clara's hand a squeeze. She did not like the flash of satisfaction she saw in Clara's eyes.

"For once, Lanfranc is on point," Alicia said.


"I don't care who it is, this behavior is scandalous."

Reuben put a hand to his chin. "Unless it came from another member of the Royal Family," he mused.

"In which case, it likely was from one of the other factions. Possibly one of the Empresses."

"Whomever it is, we can deal with it later," Euphemia said, though she was already trying to figure out which member of her father's Imperial Harem it was.

As the war in Europe raged, and the body count rose, the rivalry and factionalism within the Royal Family was beginning to heat up. Several of Euphemia's siblings had died in the last month, victims of 'accidents' or battlefield fatalities. There was a serious risk of a second Emblem of Blood, the era of assassination and intrigue that had brought Charles zi Britannia to the Throne.

Euphemia, and the li Britannia's in general, was practically disowned by the Royal Family because of the Black Rebellion and Cornelia's death, so it was thought she wouldn't be targeted.

But if I'm beginning to seem like a threat, they may decide to come after me.

Clara had said something about 'drastic action.' Euphemia didn't like the sound of that.

"Alfie," Euphemia said, "when we get to the hotel, I want you to draw up a list of trustworthy security personnel. We're going to enlarge my detail on a more permanent basis."

Alfred bowed. "It will be done, Your Highness."

"A bunch of my volunteers are veterans," Clara reminded them. "We could have them fill the gap in the meantime."

"A worthy suggestion," Alfred said. "Could you get me their dossiers after we land?"

"You betcha!"

Euphemia was off the plane and heading towards her car only thirty minutes later. It was a black limousine, with tinted windows and armored doors. There were three or four other cars wrapping around them in a protective cordon. Twenty black-suited agents stood at attention, waiting to receive her. In the distance, she could see a police cordon with flashing sirens partially blocking a massive crowd of protesters waving signs and flags.

'Traitor Princess!'


'The Dark Lord's Whore!'

The epithets varied, but carried the same general theme. Euphemia reined in her emotions.

I am no traitor!

She was about eighteen meters away from the open limousine door when the car exploded.